Wired magazine saw the paper cutout photographs I had done for a personal project and asked me to work with them on their June issue. Along with the team at Wired and stylist Grace Suh, we transformed the pages of the Gear Lab section of the magazine. It was a great opportunity to collaborate with a dedicated group of people willing to put the effort into the details. You can read the article online here.
Kala Eyewear designs and hand makes glasses in the San Francisco Bay Area. One of their newest products is a frame inspired by Studio 54. The client needed an image to be used on a large vertical format poster at an upcoming trade show. The only stipulation they gave was to include a disco ball in the shot, which was used to make the patterns on the background. The glasses are positioned in a way to make then feel as if they are dancing the night away.
This recent project is a study of contrasts. The differences in the shapes, colors and texture create a tension and highlight the qualities of each element. Rather than turn to photoshop for the creation of the backgrounds, I cut the shapes out of paper. I wanted the lighting to be real and not a rendered approximation. The paper texture, edges, and spacing between layers are not too perfect, which makes the composition more intriguing. It was really satisfying to concept and then build the backgrounds…choosing the materials and colors and figuring out how to get the cuts the way I wanted.
The Sayl chair by Herman Miller has simplified and advanced the desk chair in so many ways. I worked with the chair designers to photograph a new feature of the chair: a fabric back cover. This provides an added level of customization for the user. The goal of this project was to show how the fabric worked with the chair and showcase the color options.
The beauty of the design is that the fabric doesn’t hide the structure’s frameless suspension system. The loose weave of the fabric allows the chair’s back to show through. This quality was something we wanted to capture in the still photos. The stop motion piece allows the viewer to see the chair's shape from all sides as well as demonstrating how many colors combinations there are.
How light reacts to something isn’t always predictable, especially with colored lights. Matte, shiny, and reflective areas all react differently to the incoming color light. The golf clubs I shot recently had all of these types of surfaces in a very small area. I need to think about the finishes as I’m lighting. Finding the right balance between the colored light and neutral light is also important. Using a similar color on the background helped create the feeling that the subject and background are connected and exist in the same space.
I was contacted by the Computer History Museum in Mountain View to use a photograph of mine in one of their exhibits. The subject of the show is the iPhone — it's history and impact on the world. It's a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the release of the iPhone.
At the initial release I was photographing the event and caught this shot of Steve Jobs gazing into the treasure-like case that held the first generation of the iPhone.
The museum features the photo in a display that is in their lobby. It was great to see how they curated the exhibit. I can't believe it's been 10 years!
It is amazing how something as simple as a pair of glasses can completely change your look, whether you wear them everyday or just when the sun is out. I wear glasses by necessity and really appreciate a well-crafted pair. That is one reason I love Kala Eyewear. Their glasses are made by hand here in the Bay Area which is another reason. I got the chance to photograph two styles: Twiggy and Mick. Each pair is a piece of art with the potential to transform individuals. I wanted to showcase them as such so I built simple risers to create a graphic scene which would highlight the design and quality details. See their whole collection here: kalaeyewear.com
I teamed up with Amanda Hughes-Watkins and some of her colleagues from Hot Fruit to produce some imagery for their website. Hot Fruit is a series of events that connect women professionals with other like minded "Fruits" in a variety of fields. They had a great vision for the look and content of the photos and I was happy to help harvest the imagery. The direction was unique with exotic fruits, sweet wines, shapely greenery, and a delicious color palette. I think the images we created are rich and painterly. It was a fun shoot and great to collaborate with this bunch. Go to www.hotfruit.us.
Millie Lottie has taken totes to the next level. Jan Hammock, the owner of Millie Lottie, wanted to show that these bags were more than just a stylish tote bag and that they had clever features to make transporting foods much easier.
I worked with Jan to create simple sketches in a storyboard format showing the different camera angles I would use and what action would be taking place in each shot. I had to think about what the finished video would show and how it would piece together in editing. I needed to highlight the individual parts of the interior of the bag and how it simplifies bringing food to a pot luck or picnic.
I have a good friend who works at KALW (San Francisco’s public radio). I've helped him out with some photography in the past. When I was cruising the KALW website I noticed that the team could use some new portraits for their profiles. I approached them about volunteering my photo services for a day to update their head shots. The response was positive and I had many active participants who let me photograph them. I wasn't sure where I would be shooting or how much space I would have to work with so I kept my set up simple as possible. Even so, we had to temporarily take over some desk space to fit the setup. Thankfully everyone was very nice and willing to accommodate us for the day.
It was a fun day of meeting radio personalities and contributing to a local station. I was able to match a face with the voice of the radio hosts and meet all the people that work so hard to produce great radio shows about what’s happening in the Bay Area. They make it all seam so easy, but now I have a better idea of how much work goes into every show.
I worked with local chocolate maker 9th and Larkin on some photos. They make bean-to-bar chocolate by hand right across the hall from my studio. This style of chocolate making allows for the unique, region-specific flavors to come out in the chocolate. There are two ingredients to these single origin bars: cacao and sugar. The flavors are dictated mostly by the environment where the cacao plants grow and the differences are quite noticeable even for an untrained chocolate fan like myself. I tried to illustrate the story of how this process takes place, from the cacao pods, to the beans, to the nibs, and finally the finished dark chocolate. It was fascinating to learn the details of this hand crafted treat and taste the range of flavors. Check out 9th and Larkin here.
The Runwell Turntable from Shinola is a fantastic object to photograph. The first photo shows how well it looks in a room, no need to hide it in a cabinet. It’s beautifully crafted and has all the elements that make lighting fun: smooth metallic surfaces, wood texture, soft leather, etc. The design of the product allows for some fun abstraction as well. Photographing close up on the Runwell shows off the craftsmanship and simplicity of the design. This allows the viewer to focus on and appreciate each of the Runwell’s distinctive attributes.
Recently I found a local maker who crafts very unique handbags. By local I mean 2 blocks from my studio. Future Glory has a minimalist style to their handbags so I used a minimalist approach to the photography. The corner where the surface and wall meet is illustrated almost exclusively by the shadow and how it changes angles. I used a hard light to create the shapes of the shadows that fall on the surface and crawl up the wall. One bag has very organic designs and the other a geometric grid pattern. The shadows mimic these designs with a leaf and a triangle. The images are also in opposition in that one has a shadow cast onto the bag. The other has a triangle of light beaming down onto the bag. The positive and negative space created with the light and shadow is opposite in the two images. You can learn more about Future Glory by clicking here.
Styles and trends have a tendency to come back around over time. I've found myself attracted to an older lighting technique we used to use often in the 90s. Colored gels were used to fill in shadows and create colorful images.
My new work is a play on that technique but a touch refined. When a shadow is filled with color it becomes more of an element in the photo, making things more colorful and graphic.
I’m exploring more with dramatic lighting on products. This time I was working with more rugged bags and chose stronger lighting to accentuate them. The shadows are darker than I often do, which adds to the mood of the photos.
The above photo features the Spectre Backpack and other items made by Triple Aught Design.
The photo below features the Journeyman backpack and other items made by Filson.
There are many important elements of a photo which can drastically change the overall look. Once I have the composition set I work on the lighting. This can range from soft, shadowless lighting all the way to hard light with deep, dark shadows. For these images I chose lighting in between the 2 extremes...to give it some depth and character while still highlighting the product.
The photos feature Spicer Bags (www.spicerbags.com), from a cool company that makes their bags here in San Francisco.
For this test, I was most interested in the flash duration. The test subject needed to be fun yet also demonstrate how well the Pro-10 can stop motion. Breaking glass ranks pretty high on the fun scale and is an excellent way to test freezing action.
Rather than clear glass, I dropped a mirror because it can reflect color, adding some unpredictability and creativity to the photo. A tent was built of seamless colored paper for the mirror to reflect. The dropped mirror was captured right after it had bounced off the ground and shattered still keeping its shape. When the mirror broke, each piece of glass reflected a different color from the paper tent, creating a mix of color shapes.
There was, of course, some testing to achieve the right timing and delay setting of the trigger before breaking the first mirror. To capture the mirror in focus (and to add to the superstitious nature of the shoot) I photographed at f13. The fastest flash durations of the Pro-10 are at the lower power settings. I used a flash duration of 1/45,000 (2.2) for the main head and 1/26,000 (4.2) for the head that was lighting the color paper. Both measurements are using the t.5 method and illustrated in this chart from Profoto:
Each mirror drop was captured by 3 different cameras, each at various angles. In the end, I only ended up using two of the camera angles.
If you've used any of the newer Profoto strobes, B1, B2, or D2, you'll be instantly familiar with the menus and interface of the Pro-10. The pack itself is very refined. If you need to photograph a splash of liquid or explosion of some kind, you'll need a fast flash duration. The Pro-10 definitely provides that.
I'm very pleased with how the images turned out. They are quite beautiful, well worth earning years of bad luck for smashing mirrors!
Here's a behind the scenes video: https://www.periscope.tv/peter_belanger/1lDGLRVjyaRxm?t=3s
Recently I’ve been receiving more requests for shoe photos in my portfolio. I’ve decided it was time to embrace my love for shoes and create whole gallery of shoes. I've added some new photos from ideas that have been brewing. Shoes have such a personality, which makes them fun to photograph.
Below are two photos from the new gallery coupled with behind the scene photos.
I had an idea for a stop motion piece bubbling around in my head for some time. It was very loose and incomplete but fate presented me with the exact things I needed to tie it all together, a box of old slides and prints. These were recently given to me by a family member and there's more nostalgia than in the images alone. Holding and viewing the chrome slides and seeing the old way we used to capture, view, and appreciate images was great fun. It made me reflect on how photography has changed. This stop motion piece uses the old media as props and to create a color palate. Much the way a latent image would become visible as it soaks in developer in a darkroom, this image comes to life before the viewer's eyes. To complete this effect we worked in reverse.
Little piles a sawdust were placed for each frame of the stop motion.
Slivers of the frame were cut off and small pieces of the flower print were ripped away after each shot. The final video shows the framed photo appear from nothing. This took a while to create but I'm very happy with the final piece.
A popular camera angle these days is looking straight down onto the subject. What I wanted to play with in my most recent work is using this point of view to abstract a figure. This high viewpoint allowed me to play with light and shadow in a surrealistic way as well as create an interesting composition where the shadow takes on a leading role. I couldn't have done this one all by myself so thanks to stylist Joanna Andreoni for all her help and Tarah Dowling for her expert performance as our subject.
I was also able to create a simple stop motion piece that incorporates motion into the concept and takes the surrealism a bit further.