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BMW Motorcycle Magazine

 

My good buddy, Tim Harney, builds beautiful custom motorcycles in Bushwick, Brooklyn.  Tim is a bit of a mad scientist, in that he doesn't follow conventional methods with his builds.  He's a custom fabricator and motorcycle tuner and builds bikes of many different varieties, but until now, hadn't dabble with vintage BMW's.  Vintage BMW's are my thing.  I grew up riding them with my Dad and have a few of them myself which I ride with a bunch of buddies who are also vintage BMW enthusiasts.  

Tim build this beautiful BMW R75/6 as a scramble cafe style.  He shed a ton of weight off the bike, added modern forks and front brakes, built a custom 2 to 1 exhaust, tuned it up with some sweet Mikuni carbs and threw on a pair of fat knobby tires.  The bike is a beast.  Loud, fast and torquey, a perfect urban-assault vehicle for tearing up the streets of NYC.  

The Editor of BMW Motorcycle Magazine contacted Tim and asked that they feature his bike.  Tim and I headed over to the Brooklyn Waterfront and despite some rain showers, did a sweet pictorial with his custom Bavarian beauty.  

Iron & Air Magazine

Motorcycles are my passion.  Especially vintage European motorcycles.  I've been riding most of my life and recently started doing multi-day touring.  As a kid, I recall leafing thru my dad's motorcycle magazines, looking at beautiful glossy photos of killer motorcycles and reading the articles that were often written with a lot of technical detail.  Flash to Iron and Air, a magazine founded by a bunch of like-minded motorcycle enthusiasts from Manchester, New Hampshire who thru their love of custom motorcycles and motorcycle culture, took their fresh aesthetic and created what I'd call a mag that's not-your-dad's-motorcycle-magazine.  Not that the classic mags aren't cool, but the I&A folks created something completely fresh and different to the genre.  Gorgeous imagery, tasteful writing and an overall aesthetic that's cool and not pretentious.  Since following them a few years ago, I'd always hoped to have a chance to contribute to the magazine.  My wish came true a couple years ago, when they featured one of my motorcycle shoots on their web journal.  Then a few months later, their Editor, Adam Fitzgerald, asked if I could shoot a feature for their Issue #17.  I was over the moon and jumped at the chance.  This feature was going to be more than just pretty pictures of motorcycles, it was to be a story about a former aerospace engineer who's created, Widow Jane, which happens to be some of the finest Bourbon North of Kentucky this country's seen in years.  Daniel is a soft-spoken, yet incredibly focused dude who doesn't do anything less than 110%.  When he's not working on Widow Jane, or his proprietary dark chocolate, he's flying a vintage Russian fighter plane or riding his incredible one-of-a-kind Keinocycles custom-built Vincent.  

The story took me to the Widow Jane mine in upstate New York, where the water for Widow Jane is sourced.  We spent the day in the mine and sampled chocolate and bourbon at Daniel's house which is across the street from the mine on a beautiful sprawl of land that spans acres along the river.  I also spent time with Daniel at the Widow Jane distillery in Red Hook, Brooklyn.  

I'm so honored to be a part of Iron & Air and can't wait to shoot another feature for them.

Jaffa Fishermen

When I visited Israel, I wanted the opportunity to shoot portraits of folks that ordinarily weren't in the spotlight.  The awesome folks at Kinetis pulled some strings and got me access to the Fishermen of Jaffa Port, and from what I was told, these guys don't often if ever grant photographers permission to shoot there. Not only did I get the opportunity to shoot them, but they wrangled 20 fishermen for me.  The guys were surprisingly older than I'd imagined - some of them into their 80's.   Real salt-of-the-earth folks that have been fishing these waters for generations.

Once I started shooting, Sado, the union manager began wrangling fisherman for me in rapid succession.  I imagined I'd get the chance to shoot a couple guys and next thing I know I've got fishermen coming at me left and right.  I ended up shooting over 20 fishermen's portraits over the course of an hour and a half.  I realized it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I had make the most of it.  I had to slow my mentality and make sure that I was creating a cohesive body of work and decided early on that I would make a full-body photo and close-up photo of each of the men.  That way I could have a contextual portrait and one of their face.  

All of the images were shoot with natural light with a Canon 5DMKIII and 85mm f/1.2.  I positioned the men about 20' in from a large open garage bay door.  The light outside was very intense, but nicely diffused into the space and lit the men really well.  I shot pretty wide open because I wanted to blow out the background that was very busy.  

The guys were all good sports and I had a blast doing the shoot.  I felt honored to be in their space and wanted to respect the space and their tradition.  When my time was up, I was spent.  Directing and shooting over 20 subjects in a short time frame is intense.  Afterwards, we strolled down the boardwalk to a café and had a fantastic lunch.  I had the fish entree :)

[Click the images to advance thru the gallery]

CORPORATE PORTRAITS, PVH CORP

I was tasked with shooting portraits for PVH Corps' annual report.  PVH aka Phillips Van Heusen, owns several clothing brands including IZOD, Tommy Hilfiger, Van Heusen, Arrow, Calvin Klein and more.  Shooting corporate portraits can be creative and fun and working within a company's environment can be challenging.

We had only a day to produce four portraits with four subjects.  Sounds easy?  Not at all!  We were moving locations for each shoot, being sure to tie in the environmental aspects of the shoot for context.  

 

I also had to keep in mind from a design standpoint that my subjects had to be positioned on the right side of the frame to allow for their designers to overlay text.  And keep all of these shots consistently shot with lighting and framing.

 

I really like how the designers created the layouts.  The imagery looks clean, consistent and the text works well.  




Cuba Mini Portfolio

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I know, I know. Again with Cuba. Well, I still have a lot more to get out of my system.  That trip positively affected my mentality and approach toward photography.  I felt renewed, rejuvenated and energized - something we all need from time to time, a chance to reset and feel motivated and get the creative juices flowing.

While in Cuba, I met up with our group of photographers who were from all over the country and beyond. All different types of people, with different jobs, some photographers, some hobbyists and lots in between. The first day exploring Havana we got the obligatory touristy shots out of the way.  The following day, at our morning meeting we were told that we'd be each presenting a portfolio of our work in Cuba at the end of the week. And presenting it at the Photography Institute with some of Cuba's most renowned photographers in the audience.  Wow.  So now we all felt a little pressure and some healthy competition. Competition you ask? Yes. We photographers are lone-gunmen. We're soloists carving our niches and forging our paths.  

Sure we were there as a group, but the fact of the matter is that we were shooting for ourselves. Or at least I came to realize that I was shooting for me. There is a compulsion to want to shoot for the group. To get shots that dazzle and amaze your peers. But at the end of the day, what really matters is how the images make ME feel. I am my harshest critic. I know when I'm slacking and I know when I can push harder and do better. I won't blow smoke up my own arse because it's wasted energy and let's be honest, who are we fooling.

So... I tasked myself to take this portfolio presentation seriously. And after seeing Raúl Cañtibano's work, I was so moved by his black and whites that I decided to not only process all of my portfolio images in black and white, that I wanted them to have a cohesive look and feel. So rather than a hodgepodge, "best-of", I decided to create what I considered to be a stand-alone body of work.

I'm happy with my Cuba mini-portfolio and feel that tasking myself to shoot this way was a bit of a revelation. That when traveling, the compulsion to just shoot EVERYTHING is there, but the restraint is when you make great photos. That you have to be a bit selfish when shooting. Even in a group, where you want to be considerate and fraternal, you still need to go off on your own in your head and do your thing. Stay true to your self. Focused. I found when I shifted my mentality that way, my work improved. I shot less. And I was more relaxed.

Since Cuba, I take this mentality and apply it to most everything I shoot. Or at least try to. Especially when things are going wrong or the pressure is mounting, I'll remind myself to slow down. Relax. Focus. Shoot.. 

Rocking Horse

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Sometimes inspiration can come from mundane objects. Flash to the Wonder Horse that was left in my barn by the previous owners of our house. Actually, the owner was going to throw it out and my wife insisted we keep it. In the time we've had it, our friend's kids have had a blast playing on it and for us, it serves as a nostalgic reminder of our childhoods. There's something timeless about a rocking horse and many generations can relate to it.

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The other day, I was doing some portrait lighting tests with the Phase One in the middle of the day and as much as I love photographing my dogs when I cannot find a model, they never seem to sit still long enough for anything more than a quick snap. I grabbed the Wonder Horse out from the barn and made it my subject. This test was mostly for editorial lighting. Something that would be lean and effective. A smallish lighting kit that could accompany me for editorial shoots.

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Here's the BTS of the full setup.   I positioned the umbrella off axis to somewhat emulate the natural light of the day even though it was pretty overcast.

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I should also mention that I had the camera on tripod to ensure that my lines were straight and used the camera's virtual horizon to make sure of that. Also I find that when shooting a low angle, positioning the camera on tripod allows for much more controlled shooting.

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I wanted a shallow depth of field, so I shot at f/2.8. F/2.8 on medium format is very shallow - somewhat like f/1.4 on a 35mm DSLR. Also, medium format sensors are about 70% larger than 35mm DLSRs so there is more detail. I'm not saying this is better, just naming the differences. I used an LP180 and infrared trigger.  That flash and trigger cost about 1/3 the price of just one Professional Canon or Nikon branded flash. I think Canon and Nikon make excellent speedlites, but I also think there are great affordable options.

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So I guess the title of this shoot could be high-end camera and low-end flash. By no means is the off-brand flash low quality. Some other things to note are that with the Hasselblad, you've got up to 1/800 sec flash sync. I love that and am always bothered by the limitation of DSLR flash sync. I love the look of dramatic saturated backgrounds mixed with lit subjects. The faster shutter allows for reducing ambient light and bring more drama into the photo.

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Ultimately, these images were shot at f/2.8, 1/250 sec, ISO50. I think the flash was at 1/16 power. I played around at 1/400 sec, but the background became a bit too dark and didn't translate well for me for this shoot. To me, things like that are done to taste.

Andy's Studio

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AWL_0758 Andy's a music producer and has a production studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Andy recorded and mixed all of the records I did with my former band, Second Dan, as well as the theme music for my YouTube videos. We also happen to be neighbors in Williamsburg.

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I ran into Andy and he offered to show me his new production studio. Of course I looked at this as a photographic opportunity. When I have a chance to create some new work, whether it be editorial or portrait, I always game - especially when it involves interesting people! Andy's got a look and a thing about him that is very photogenic.

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Andy played me some new stuff he's working on while I took candid portraits and then we went about our day. I love when these type of unexpected shoots come up.

The Stylish and Elegant Miriam Yeung

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Late last year, I was contacted by a French cosmetics company to shoot actress and singer, Miram Yeung.  After a quick google search, I quickly realized that she is a huge star.  Maybe moreso in China, but she's no slouch and has been in the biz for years.  The cosmetics company wanted me to shoot a day-in-the-life with Miriam in New York City.  We'd start at the corporate offices of Estee Lauder and then hit a few select locations around New York City for me to capture some candid portraits. AWL_0134

I'd never been hired by a French firm and communicating overseas via email with the time difference and language barrier was interesting.   I was a tad skeptical at first, but after doing my research, I realized that everything was legit and it sounded like a great assignment.   The PR folks sent me a vigorous schedule and shot list with every minute of the day accounted for.  I decided to shoot with the Canon 5DMKIII.  I knew we'd be going from light to dark environments and I'd want to capture action so my camera had to be versatile and responsive with fast focusing.  Even though we were not shooting any posed or lit photos, I brought a speedlite with me. (and never used it).  I also brought my Fuji X100s just in case we were in a situation that I need to be stealthy or silent.  I shoot a few frames with it, but used the Canon for most everything. In hindsight, the Canon 5DMKIII and 24-70mm f/2.8 would have covered things and considering how much walking around and location changing we did, I would have welcomed less weight in my bag.

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I had just recently switched my DSLR rig from Nikon to Canon, so I was excited for a full day shoot with the Canon and can say I am very happy with the results.  After Miriam's meetings at Estee Lauder, they headed to the Four Seasons for lunch and I hit up a nearby Starbucks for WiFi.  I used that time to get some work done, catch up on emails, and remain close and ready for action.  After lunch, we hopped back into the Suburban SUV limo and drove to the Metropolitan Museum.  Miriam was wearing Spring fashion (maybe she was endorsing a clothing line), because it was very cold out and her outfit was super thin material.  She was a trooper and maintained poise and elegance for the shoot.  Beside some shots of her on the Museum steps, I had her cross the street to give a very New York City feel which she was totally game for.

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While outside the Museum, Miriam was approached by fans for signatures and iPhone pics.  She obliged graciously.  We then headed to Central Park and then to Times Square where she was also approached by adoring fans.  By the time we got to Times Square, Miriam was ready for some rest.

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Cold weather, long day and jet lag didn't help, but she never showed any signs of being tired or wanting to rush.  I should also mention that Miriam doesn't speak English, and I don't speak Chinese.  This wasn't a problem, because she's a professional and accustomed to this sort of thing, and just went with the flow.  We got along great.  I had no idea what to expect and can say that it was a fantastic day.

Here's what Miriam posted on her Instagram from the day: Screen Shot 2013-12-02 at Dec 2 | 9.43.06 AM

I couldn't resist getting a shot with Miriam! photo

Love and Quiches

Adam Lerner

I was recently contacted by Global Trade Magazine to shoot a feature with Andy Axelrod, the President of Love and Quiches, a family owned and operated desert food manufacturer located on the North shore of Long Island.  I headed over there with my Phase One and Fujis to do portraits with Andy, as well as some environmental shots. I figured I'd shoot the portraits with the Phase One and the environmentals with the Fujis and that worked out very well. I only had about an hour with the Andy and the facility was quite vast, so I first did a walk thru to look for good shooting locations I liked and that the company's PR rep felt represented them well. Between the vacuous sub-zero freezers and busy production lines, I decided I wanted to get Andy right in the thick of the action, along side the workers on the production line. Andy is a very affable guy and knew practically everyone in the plant by name. I set up one flash as close as I could, however I had to keep a path clear for workers to come thru with racks. I also had to wear a long lab-coat, booties, and hair net to comply with their cleanliness standards and I can say that long lab coat was very warm.

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Click the image to see it full-size.

As you can see Andy was also wearing the hygienic garb and I felt it really tied him into the operation. We shot a bunch more in other locations, but the assembly line really had the greatest impact. The art director agreed and ran the lead feature with this image. Overall, I had a blast doing this shoot and it was very interesting getting inside the workings of this operation.

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Click the image to see it full-size.

I shot a bunch of environmental and detail shots in their various warehouse which they used on the second spread of the article. Those were shot with the Fuji X100s and Fuji X-Pro 1. I like using those cameras for editorial shooting because they're very versatile and lightweight. That was a huge bonus when walking around this massive facility.

Dad's motorcycles

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I'm a huge motorcycle enthusiast and started riding motorcycles as a teenager when my dad got me put me on a bike, pointed to the clutch and brake and there I went.  He got into motorcycles while in the army when he bought an army surplus Harley Davidson. Over the years, he had a bunch of bikes, but his real passion was with BMWs. The best was perhaps his 1974 R90s. Smoke paint, drop bars and bullet faring. The R90s came that way from the factory and was really one of the first super bikes. 100 mph on that bike felt pretty comfortable!

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I inherited a couple of my dad's bikes. His pride and joy was the 1967 BMW R69s. This was BMW's super bike at the time featuring a 42-horsepower, 600cc high-compression motor which put out nice power for the time.  His has period Heinkes racing pipes, Hella bar-end turn signals and sport tank. It's in spectaclar original condition and I can tell you, it rides and sounds amazing. For a 45-year-old bike, it's very sophisticated in an understated sort of way. Great cruising bike.

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Then there's the polar opposite - a 2007 Ducati GT1000 SportClassic. This was Ducati's attempt to bring back the styling of their naked 70's bikes. At first these bikes were not well-received, but over the years, they developed a big following - from their striking good looks to the exceptional 1000cc v-twin motor and cat-like handling. The GT1000 is a beast. Scary fast and brutal exhaust note! Being the custodian of these bikes is a huge honor.

Both bikes were photographed with a Phase One and natural light from the skylight in my Brooklyn garage.

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Motorcycle builders looking to do a photo story, please get in touch.  Also, if you inherited motorcycles or cars or vehicles and have a cool story and great machines for a photo story, please get in touch.

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Tracy Morgan

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CF001185-EditI recently did a shoot for a major Cable Television network and was thrilled to find out that the talent was Tracy Morgan. I've been a fan of Tracy Morgan since his SNL days and couldn't believe I was spending the day shooting at his home! The schedule was pretty tight, however after lunch, I managed to get a few portraits of Tracy. I asked. We'd been on set for a few hours working together so there was a level of trust built. I grabbed my Hasselblad / Phase One which was a bit of a risk considering it was going to be a handheld, natural light portrait that I would maybe have 5 minutes to do if I was lucky. I knew I wanted to shoot with my best camera, however that meant I would be seriously limited with focusing options and ISO options, stuff we take for granted with a DSLR. We went into his back yard and I grabbed a couple close portraits.

After maybe 2 minutes of shooting, he suggested we move over to his patio and I grabbed what is now my website's cover shot. Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at Oct 28 | 4.54.08 PM

As much as I dig the portrait, the shot on my website has become one of my favorite portraits. Cool, casual and oozing personality. Tracy Morgan. I'm grateful Tracy gave me a few minutes one-on-one and am glad I decided to ask.

Quick outdoor model test

Adam Lerner

Last week my buddy Nick asked me to take some photos of him to pitch a modeling agency. The agency asked for natural, clean images, so I wanted the photos to have an organic look, meaning, I didn't want to use flash or go into the studio. Fall is fantastic because of the sweet afternoon light. Golden, diffused and low, long shadows. Perfect for a nice natural look. I grabbed my Fuji X-Pro 1 and 35mm f/1.4 and we walked a few blocks from my loft in Brooklyn. I found a couple really clean backdrops along the way that worked really well. And the Fuji was perfect for this. It was so nice traveling light and having unlimited flexibility. Adam Lerner Adam Lerner Adam Lerner Adam Lerner

Mood Rings

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Last year, I spent a couple hours photographing the emerging Atlanta band, Mood Rings. Their record label sent them up to Brooklyn for a recording project and my buddy set up a photo shoot. A0004896

I brought the Hasselblad and a couple bare speedlites on stands and took them to one of my favorite locations in Greenpoint. We tried a bunch of different spot and scenarios - all of which the guys were up for. I wouldn't call the Mood Rings the most dynamic band I've ever shot. In fact, it would seem they make a practice of emphasizing the blasé and melancholy.

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Now that's in no way a dis, but shooting a group of guys that you have little personal connection with and who are pretty much unfazed by anything you say to them is not without it's challenges. I don't know if the band ever used these images, but I had fun making these images and think they're pretty cool.

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Coney Island Mermaid Parade 2013

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000084250006 I'm a fourth generation New Yorker. I grew up going to Coney Island and am always drawn back there. For the past few years, I've been shooting the Mermaid Parade on film only. Something about the nostalgia, simplicity and economy of film that appeals to me for the look of that shoot.

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I want to take in the sights and sounds. And I only want a handful of shots. My drive to capture this iconic gathering is personal. I'm not only looking to monetize or editorialize the images, I just want to document them for myself and by keeping the shots to film, I can have a consistent body of work that will span over the years.

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My weapon of choice is my trusty Nikon F100 film camera and 35mm f/2. This is a really easy-to-handle system with a lot of flexibility.

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This year, I shot Tri-X. Not my first choice for an incredibly brilliant sunny day, but it's what I had on hand. Sure, I could have been more pro-active and bought more film beforehand, but the Tri-X was a fine choice.

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I love the look of Tri-X. At ISO 400, it's quite versatile, yet the grain structure is pretty tight. Yes, it's grainy, but not to the point of fuzz. The F100 has a max shutter of 1/8000 so it's possible to shoot wide open even with 400 film. (and maybe next year I'll bring an ND filter)

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I love the look of a 35mm lens for documentary and street. It's wide enough to tell a story, yet has just enough throw to isolate subjects from the background.

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This year, they did something a bit different and spread the backstage lineup across an additional city block. Doesn't sound like much, but the intensity of all of the participants crammed into 2 blocks was lost.

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The staging area just didn't have the frenetic vibe and energy of past parades. The backstage lineup can be so intense and I love framing my shots against the undulating sea of people. It's easy to get caught up in the energy of the crowd which only feeds the creativity of the shots.

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Although I wasn't able to get all of that wild energy this year, I committed to shooting my roll of Tri-X and got some decent shots. I like what I got, but am not in love with this year's batch as much as past years. No biggie. It's an evolution.

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I sent my film to indiefilmlab.com. They do a great job of processing and offer excellent scanning. I highly recommend their services. They were founded by a collective of photographers looking for better processing and scanning in Alabama and ultimately realized they could offer the same high standards of service to others. Check them out.

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One of the most compelling things about photography is that it's ever-changing. As much as it's good to pre-visualize and plan for a shoot, it's likely that things will be different and you'll have to improvise. I love that part of photography. Knowing that if there isn't a solution, there's got to be a workaround.

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I also cannot stress how important it is to challenge yourself to shoot personal work and shoot in different formats. It's easy to shoot digital to an SD card. You can chimp and adjust your exposures. Shooting a roll of film makes you more selective. Slows you down. You take in a lot more of your surroundings. Slowing down is a good thing. I look forward to shooting the Mermaid Parade every year. And I love the anticipation from sending out my film to receiving the scans. Well worth the wait.

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Beautiful Ballerina Havana, Cuba

Adam Lerner

Adam Lerner A few months ago, I had an amazing visit to Havana, Cuba. While there, I met some awesome photographers including Ramsés Batista. Ramsés is not only a talented photographer, but a seriously cool dude. He's one of those photographers that pushes his photography to the limit for his craft. His work is amazing, however don't be fooled by his rudimentary website. He's Cuban and doesn't have the same easy access to internet. I got to see giant prints of his work while in Cuba, and was blown away.

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Ramsés was so helpful to our group and knows everyone and all the great spots around Havana. A few of us decided we wanted to do a model shoot on location. Ramsés organized a couple ballerinas from the National Ballet and hired an old mansion. We set out in the early morning and arrived at an amazing spanish colonial mansion much like Josie's house. Hard to believe that modest people were living there - in the States, this type of home would be for very posh folks! We met our models who brought their ballet costumes as well as street clothes. The strobist in me had some speedlites and light modifiers, however the natural light in the house was so special, we ditched the lights for available.

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I had my trusty Nikon D3s, a few primes and Fuji X100s. Since there were a bunch of photographers, we knew we had to be economical with the models and our time, so it was important to have a strategy. We scoped the house and grounds and came up with a few scenarios we wanted to shoot. We ended up sharing locations and assisting each other. The spirit of camaraderie was unique in that most of the time, photographers are lone-gunmen and not looking to shoot around their peers. Like most of our trip in Havana, there were many exceptions to the rules.

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I shoot with Lili. She was very comfortable in front of the camera especially for someone who isn't a professional model. Interestingly, Lili didn't speak English and my Spanish was pretty poor, but it didn't affect the flow of the shoot. My favorite moments were when she was not posing, not "smiling for camera", but more relaxed, natural and contemplative.

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We all had a great time with the shoot and I'm really happy with the images. I didn't plan for an organized photo shoot when I left for Cuba, and this was a huge bonus. Not only to have had the opportunity to do an actual photo shot, but to utilize this amazing location was such a treat.

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So many things to take away from this. 1) Keep it simple. Sure we had speedlites, triggers, modifiers and the like, but the natural light was spectacular and I was quickly able to let-go of the extra gear. 2) Be a team player. Of course I would have liked to have shot the model without sharing, but in the spirit of things, assisting my fellow photographers was great, and I got the bonus of watching them work and observing their process. 3) Always be prepared. Just because we didn't plan to do a formal shoot, didn't mean that I wasn't prepared for one. 4) Know your gear. Having just a few primes for the Nikon and the X100s was great and made for a nice uncomplicated shoot. 5) It's just a camera. One of my most favorite shots was taken with the X100s (the image at the lace table on the top of this page). The Nikon D3s did a fantastic job, but that little X100s really impressed me.

New Fulton Fish Market, 2:30am

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My buddy has a crab-boil every summer. And he won't just go to the supermarket for seafood, instead he insists on going to the New Fulton Fish Market in the Bronx. This market is the central depot for fresh fish for the entirety of New York City's restaurant business. Apparently, anybody can go there to purchase seafood and we were no exception.

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After sleepily navigating thru the inner streets of the Bronx, we finally made our way to the vast industrial complex, paid the nominal parking fee and parked the car. As soon as we got out of the car, the smell hit us. Wow, that smell. It's pungent, and undeniably fishy. For anyone who isn't a fan of seafood, or fishing or the ocean for that matter, you may want to avoid this place. We make our way into the enormous building and got hit with the sting of the chill. The entire facility is cooled and again, advisable to wear a sweatshirt before embarking on a trip inside.

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There are boxes and boxes of seafood on palettes and forklifts whizzing up and down the center lane at breakneck speeds. The floor is slippery. It reeks of seafood. It's chilly. It's late. But it's awesome! We made our way around the place to M. Slavin and Sons. My buddy's been going there for years, so it's something of a tradition. Mr. Slavin, who is likely in his mid-seventies and was been born into this, gets right on our order and makes things happen. He even pauses a quick second for a portrait.

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I saw this trip as a photographic opportunity. Knowing that I'd stand out like a sore thumb at this place, I decided to travel light and just brought my Fuji X100s. That's all I needed. We weren't there long, but I feel I got a nice variety of shots that tell the story of that place and our experience. Whenever you're asked to join someone for a trip like this, pack a camera. You'll be happy you did. I enjoy photojournalism and beside the one portrait I snapped, I enjoyed shooting the environment and details. All of which tells the story.

Havana's faded glory, Josie's House

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We went on a tour of Josie's house in Havana. Josie's house is a sprawling mansion of easily 5,000 sq ft of living space. At the time of the revolution, it was common for anyone living in a residence to be assigned the property by the government. Often, if the rich owners had left and the servents remained, they were given the deed to the property! Seems like a good thing, but for modest folks to be given that type of financial burden was a huge strain. Most of the time, these mansions were subdivided and multiple generations of many families would cram into the houses. Josie somehow managed to keep the house private, despite the hardship. To this day she remarks how ridiculously big the house is for her. As beautiful as this house may seem, there are signs of it's long-term decay everywhere. Peeling paint, chipped stone, worn banisters, and a weathered patina cover every inch of the house's interior and exterior. Much like Josie. Both she and this house have aged. Seeing old photos, you could tell she was a stunner in her day. Piercing blue eyes and a very comely face. Just like the house was once grand and opulent, a tribute to the thriving pre-revolution Cuba, it's now in a serious state of decay. I found it fascinating to see both she and the house in similar states of aging - that parallel between she and her house was palpable and melancholy.

Josie lived in the house with her husband, a former Chemical engineer, who passed away last year. Now, just she and her dog occupy the massive stone-clad monument to Havana's former glory. This house is such a realistic representation of Cuba. Time stopped and so did the upkeep for her house, much like the upkeep of Cuba's infrastructure. Faded, the structure and memories of the past lay about modestly. These days, Josie gives house tours which hopefully supplement her modest means. It was an honor to meet Josie and spend time in her home.

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Natural Light Portrait, Fuji X-Pro 1

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Untitled The Fuji X-Pro 1 is an odd beast. Odd in that it's quirky. Quirky controls and menus. Quirky viewfinder and focus. However, it's a beast. The files are freakin sweet. That 35mm f/1.4 lens is insanely sharp. Fuji's sensor for this camera has a fantastic look and the files are hefty. Seems that Fuji and Adobe finally got their sh*t together and the RAW conversions are looking sweet.

Here's a quick portrait I shot of buddy and ace photographer, Lance Omar Thurman. I fired one frame and am amazed on the image quality. I dig the portrait too. Sure, had this been a portrait session, we'd have run thru quite a bit more, but as far as test shots are concerned, I really dig it.

Seems that Fuji and Adobe finally got their sh*t together and the RAW conversions are looking sweet.

I'm not quite ready to ditch my DSLR. I LOVE my Fuji X100s and Fuji X-Pro 1. They're both amazing cameras that I love shooting, despite their quirks. There are still jobs for which I need a DSLR. Shooting a really fast frame rate, the buffering of a DSLR cannot be beat. However, I could see over time, abandoning my DSLR for cameras like the Fujis.

Juan

Would I recommend you run out and buy and X-Pro 1? Probably not. I would highly recommend the X100s, but only and only if you're serious about your photography and appreciate that despite it's form factor, the X100s is a professional photographer's camera. To really fully enjoy it's capabilities, you need to get out of Auto mode with that camera and unlock it's power. Same with the X-Pro 1, however with that camera there's really only a couple good lenses available. The 35mm f/1.4 is magical. Just a fantastic lens. Super tack-sharp, gorgeous contrast and beautiful bokeh. The 60mm f/2.8 is great when and if you get focus. Otherwise, it's fairly tedious to shoot with. The 18mm f/2 is decent, but never blew me away. In fact, I've only got the 35mm f/1.4 at the moment and am considering either Voigtlander or Leica lenses with adapters. Fuji really needs an amazing portrait lens for that camera. The 35mm f/1.4 is decent, but there needs to be a 90mm equivalent lens that just kicks ass and it's not there yet.

I've waxed poetic about my Nikon D3s. It's a freakin tank. A workhorse. But I really don't have that love affair with it. Don't get me wrong, it's a fantastic camera. Amazing in a lot of ways, but there's something about the form factor of the Fujis and the look of those files that takes things to a whole different level.

Faces of Cuba

Adam Lerner

I've wanted to visit Cuba for well over a decade. Maybe it was amplified by the Buena Vista Social Club, but I was most definitely attracted to the sights and sounds of Havana and heard great things from folks that had made the trip over the years. Adam Lerner

Getting there is fairly easy if you go thru the right channels, however it's not as easy as it could be and requires a good bit of planning. I was fortunate to go with an organization that not only caters to photographers, they do everything possible to make the trip and logistics go smoothly.

Adam Lerner

I had no idea how the Cuban people would act toward visitors. Knowing that we were going to be on the streets, taking photographs and looking out of place comparatively. Bombarding their country with all of our western wares and fancy cameras.

Adam Lerner

I had heard that Havana was safe and was completely open-minded, or should I say cautiously optimistic.

Adam Lerner

What I found was that not only did I feel safe, I felt welcomed. So often, Cubans came up to me and asked where I was from. Despite my best efforts with speaking Spanish, they wanted to practice their English speaking with me, which was a relief because my Spanish is pretty bad.

Adam Lerner

Being from New York resonated with a lot of folks, however most Cubans I met not only never visited New York, they've never left the island.

Adam Lerner

As I made my way through my trip, I focused on taking portraits. My favorite portraits are the ones that were not "set-up", however there were so many great moments and faces along the way that I'm honored to have made photos with so many people.

Adam Lerner

I am a portrait photographer and a people-person, so whenever possible, I introduced myself and struck up a conversation.

Adam Lerner

Amazing how a little goes a long way and despite our countries being what seems to be worlds apart, we're all on this big rock together and all want the same things.

Adam Lerner

With the increase in tourism, there are folks looking for a quick buck, but I found that rather than throwing money at everyone that targeted me as an ATM, I struck a conversation.

Adam Lerner

I bartered with commodities when possible, but often, just making an effort to talk to people was enough.

Adam Lerner

Think about it. We're guests in their country. A country where they have little freedoms. We have a responsibility to behave respectfully when we're visiting. Not only for moral reasons, but to preserve the mojo.

Adam Lerner

I've traveled and seen "Ugly Americans". Folks that are pushy, loud, disrespectful, condescending and impatient. The ones that desperately search for conveniences - St*rbucks, McDon@lds etc. Don't be that person.

Adam Lerner

When you're visiting another country, especially one that's not been commercialized and westernized, show some respect. Take the time to enjoy it for what it is, not what you want it to be.

Adam Lerner

We're troubadours when we're visiting other places and should do whatever possible to not ruin it for other travelers.

Adam Lerner

Going to Cuba, you realize that you need to slow down. Things happen at a different pace there and there's not much you can do about it other than accept it.

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Sure, there's plenty of hustle and bustle. Everyone's moving and grooving, but all that we've come to rely on to expedite our daily lives is strangely absent over there.

Adam Lerner

So here it is, I find myself talking about mentality again. I'm still unpacking all of the thoughts in my mind about my experience in Cuba, however it seems that my mentality has shifted. In a good way.

Adam Lerner

I'm looking forward to seeing how this will affect my photography moving forward. My excitement for photography has been bolstered. Renewed.

Adam Lerner

Sure, I wake up every day looking forward to making photos. I love photography, and my visit to Cuba has only strengthened that passion.

Nashville Street Shots

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I just got back from an super-fun weekend in Nashville, TN with Jared Polin, a.k.a. Fro Knows Photo. Beside teaching a workshop, we had some time to wander around the town and take in the sights and sounds. DSCF1608

And are there sounds!!! Honky Tonk bars line the music mile of Broadway where you can hear amazing live country music and it's mostly free!

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Sure, it's a touristy area, but how else are these musicians going to pay the rent. ;) We had some free time on Sunday to do a photo walk and along the way I snapped a few frames with my Fuji X100s.

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I cannot tell you enough how much I love that camera and how liberating it is to shoot with such a stealthy little camera when walking around.

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So much more freedom than a DSLR. Sure, there are limitations. But the liberation is well worth the compromise.

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Thanks again Nashville for kindly welcoming us to your fine city. We had a blast and I look forward to visiting again.