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Chief Engineer
Photo By Martin Christopher

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Photographer: Martin Christopher

Photo Details

  • Title: Chief Engineer
  • State/Province/Region (required): California
  • Country (required): United States
  • Nearest Town: Riverside
  • Description: Surviving as a photographer in the recession requires great effort. Last fall I took on a project that that involved traveling 10,000 miles to 29 cities coast-to-coast to work in sub zero environments with amazing people. All in a span of just four weeks. This assignment for a major work wear manufacturer was an intense undertaking and the results were great for everyone involved. The company who, in previous years, hired photographers in each location, now got 32 great environmental portraits with consistency of style for their campaign. The subjects got portraits that portrayed and honored their personalities and achievements. My success with this huge challenge reinforced my belief in my goals as a commercial photographer.
  • Brief Directions: As always, my lighting was very important. I needed to achieve high quality results with a portable studio that would travel well, set up quickly, and function consistently. For this I chose Nikon SB-800 Speedlights triggered by the Pocket Wizard Flex TT5 Mini / TT1 system. I controlled lighting ratios using Pocket Wizard’s AC3 Zone Controller. For a natural look, I used an ISO/shutter speed/aperture combination that provided flash exposure of my subject and detail within the vast, fluorescent lit warehouse environments. This required using FL-G1 gels on the Speedlights to match the color temperature of the overhead lighting. Since AA batteries tend to warm up during use, the Speedlights and TT5s continued working as long as I kept up the pace. I discovered early that it was necessary to keep a spare battery in my pocket for the TT1. The coin cell battery it uses ceased to function after about twenty minutes in the coldest of warehouses. The position of my lights and umbrellas, together with very high ceilings would have made it difficult to trigger the lights using infrared signals but Pocket Wizard’s radio triggering worked flawlessly. I captured the images using the Nikon D3x and either a Nikon 85 mm f1.4 or 50mm f1.4 lens. As always, my Nikon equipment performed perfectly. There was only one case where the exposure to cold was long enough at a low enough temperature to cause the camera to stop working. I suspect it was due to a cold battery because it resumed functioning after I warmed it up a bit. I carry an additional camera body as a backup, but thanks to Nikon’s reliability, I never had to use it. In order for the calendar to go to print on my client’s target date, it was necessary that they have images for layout throughout the duration of my travels. This involved several steps that required reliable internet connection and time for uploading previews and finals along the way. The most logical time for this was during the evenings in my hotel room, although I found myself doing post-production work at every opportunity I had. After each day of shooting, I imported the RAW files into an Adobe Lightroom catalog where I culled each shoot down to 15-20 of the strongest shots. I then exported these as screen resolution JPEGs and uploaded them to an online preview gallery for my client to select from. Before each round of final image editing, I calibrated the display on my MacBook Pro using DataColor’s Spyder 2. Calibrating this often may seem like overkill except that laptop displays tend to shift a bit and I wanted to leave nothing to chance. I edited each selection using Adobe Lightroom 3, Adobe Photoshop, and a Wacom Intuos 4 Tablet. Image files captured on the 24.5 megapixel Nikon D3x are quite large so I set them to upload as soon as each one was complete. Most business quality hotels offer reasonable wireless connections but even the best ones pale in comparison to premium high-speed cable.
  • Notes: My assignment was confirmed on October 18th allowing only one week to plan the four-week long project. The objective of the assignment was to make portraits of each winner in their work environment wearing RefrigiWear‘s insulated work wear. Having prior experience shooting in this type of environment, I knew I could expect extremely cold temperatures in very large warehouses with high volume production. To meet these challenging conditions and make high quality images within a very tight shoot schedule, I chose equipment that is reliable, agile, and capable of withstanding the rigors of this assignment.
  • Best Season: Autumn
  • Gear: Nikon D3X, Nikon 50mm 1.4, (3) Nikon SB 800 Speedlights, (3) Pocket Wizard Flex TT5s, and (1) Mini TT1

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