Category Archives: Behind the Scenes

Magna Beer – Water Shoot

So I don’t think I’ve ever grown up.  I mean, really…still playing in a pool of water only a few inches deep…makes you think back to that little plastic pool you had as a kid.  What can I say, water is fun to shoot…in and around, if a little messy.  I had my two compatriots, Henry Alvarez and Jesus Baez with me to create some great beer advertising imagery.  This is not a project you can do alone.  It requires teamwork.

The idea was simple:

1. Go to Home Depot and buy new Drill!! (been looking for an excuse for that). Love me some Makita.
2. Create big pool enclosure out of 1’x6’s reinforced by 2’x4′ pieces at the corners. Make sure to screw from the inside out or risk the screw going to deep and puncturing a hole in your enclosure…
2. Fill pool with water(and hope it doesn’t leak).  For this, I bought a 10’x25′ 6 mil drop cloth that I doubled, so that, effectively, you get 2-6mil plys for your waterproofing.
3. Set up boom and tie off beer bottle to it via fishing line.
4. Light it and throw water at it and me until the perfect capture is made…

So is this work or play??  Play was definitely in the shooting…work was most CERTAINLY the cleanup…hand bailing out of 400 gallons + of water isn’t good for the back. 🙂

So here’s the money shot.  Click the image to see it bigger…you can see more detail in the larger pic.

The pool was 8′ x 8′, and the bottle was set near the front of the pool.  I believe the f/stop was 4.8, which allowed a nice depth of field behind the bottle for the water droplets to go in and out of focus based on how far from the camera they were.

Here’s a closeup shot.  Strangely enough, all the best shots came when the camera and I got wet as well…gotta take one for the team sometimes. 😉

…and the team that helped create it(below).
Jesus Baez on the left and Henry Alvarez on the right.  I’d like to thank both of them again for their help and hard work, especially on breaking down the set and draining the lake…not fun…

I may post a little video later of us doing the shoot, but I’ve got no time to edit the video now…so we’ll see about that later…til next time…

Thanks for viewing,

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Fashion Night Out

Ok, another post that’s taken me a while to get around to…four months or so, but who’s counting. 😉  Had a great shoot in and around the High Line and the Meat Packing District.  It’s one of the few areas in New York that still have the old cobblestone streets.  Only a few years ago, meat packing was a rough place and stank to high hell with all of the meat packing plants there.  Now, most of the plants are closed, and the district has become the next big shopping mecca, but it still has the look that I wanted…

So we started hair and makeup around 4pm at my studio…thinking we’d leave for the 1st look around 6:30pm.  Well, I think we got in the location van about 7:30…a little behind as I wanted to get more of the twilight, but you roll with the changes.  We got everyone in the location van and took off.  We started off on the High Line, which was surprisingly fine with a crew of people setting up shop and shooting.  I was concerned that the people working for the High Line would take issue with people shooting there.  As I thought, however, it goes back to the principle of, “If you aren’t preventing people from moving through an area and your crew is fluid and can move where it needs to, you’re ok”.  The rules of, can you shoot in New York with or without a permit, only really apply if you want to stop traffic or block a street from pedestrians from coming through your set.  If you’re fluid, you’re generally good.

We shot this while we had a guard coming over to us and saying, nicely, “10 minutes to closing”…which was nice of them.  They didn’t have any issue with us shooting there, they just wanted us out on time.

So we headed out on the street, I believe this is Gansevoort St…with the Gansevoort Hotel in the background.  I’m a huge fan of mixing strobe and ambient light, be it outside in full daylight or, as in this shot, using the city lights at night as the ambient.  Time exposure, around 1-2 seconds + Beauty dish strobe.

Here we are taking a break at our location van/changing station…

Onto the next shot…

This one was difficult.  I was walking back with the model, still at about 1 sec exposure, and had my assistant James walking back as well with the strobe, trying to keep the distance the same so the exposure is good.  We did this eight or nine times and I ended up liking two images.  So this is two of the individual images put together in post.  Other than that, there’s not much done to them.  All of the blurring and colors were done in camera.

Loved the storefront from Christian Louboutin and the colors it gave off on the model.

I liked the way the red dress and stockings were set off from the blue/silver background.  Also another image put together in post from two single vertical shots.  This wasn’t an easy thing to do.  La Boutique Creative Retouching did a great job making it look seamless.

Now onto our last and most traumatic look.   It was 2am and we were all tired.  Maria’s ponytail was so tight it was becoming painful.  We were all happy that David and Moani had packed up the car and moved it down the street to the end of 27th and the west side highway.  We were ready to go once the look was done.  They then came to join us while we finished up the last look.  The look itself was easy and done in 20 minutes.

We were maybe a 5 minute walk from the location van.   We finished up and started walking back.  We got back to where we had parked the location van….

and it was gone…

So there we were, staring at each other…mildly freaking out.  We were only gone 15 minutes, which means someone was watching and waiting for us to leave.  The only question is…stolen, or towed??  I looked at a sign on the wall and it looks like we were in a tow-zone at night.  Moani, the clear headed thinker that she is, knew about the Tow Yard around 30th and the West Side Highway.  We took off in a cab to the tow yard…

So while I’m in line checking to see if the tow yard had it, Moani took a little video to capture the moment…did they have it or was it stolen???

So, yes, they had it and it took another hour and a half, plus tickets and fees to get our lives back…clothes, camera equipment, etc…which was about 3:30am.  It ended well, but not without a dramatic flair. 🙂  Thanks again to my wonderful crew who put up with a late start and even LATER finish…

THE Crew:

Photography by James Weber,
Styled by David Widjaja,
Makeup by Moani Lee,
Hair by Nelson Vercher,
Model:  Maria Beljanina,
Photographic Assistance:  James Sullivan,
Retouching:  La Boutique Creative Retouching,

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The Kanji Cosmetics Project – Skin’s Signs

Late last year, I had a wonderful collaboration with two amazing artists on a very interesting, conceptual still life project.  We started the project with seven kanji signs: Love, Life, Harmony, Dream, Happiness, Flower, and Strength.  The idea was to create these signs using cosmetics in an interesting, visual way.  The thing I liked most about this project was the complete creative freedom that was given to us by Hea7en Magazine, where it was run.

I almost didn’t take this on as the actual doing, writing, creating of the kanji symbols in cosmetics to me was very daunting.  In comes my savior, Moani Lee.  Aside from being an amazing makeup artist, Moani also brought to the table the ability to write/create the kanji symbols.  As this is a beauty cosmetics story, I would need someone that really knew the cosmetics and how they interacted with each other.  A story board might also be nice…Problem solved.  Moani came through on all fronts.  She story boarded the project, which was genius….and we got started.

Moani and I got together and went shopping for the accessories that we needed down the street in the Flower District of New York.  I love having that street so near to me as it provides so many great props for shooting different genres.  So we walked out of the store with about $50 in props, that on another day, wouldn’t have caught your gaze, but I knew they would be perfect for our shoot.  So while Moani worked on creating the cosmetic art for me to shoot, I worked on lighting the scene so that each one would have it’s own look and feel.

The last piece of the puzzle was the graphic design work.  We wanted something on the opposite page that reflected what the kanji symbol looked like, but we didn’t know where to go or how to do it.  Enter, David H…

David is an incredible graphic artist.  He took to the project head on and created seven beautiful kanji masterpieces for us to use opposite the photography.

MAC Shirelle Nail Laquer

It’s a tough call, but I think “Love” was my favorite.  It just pops off the page visually.  This isn’t a digital creation.  Moani created the base symbol out of glue, let it dry, then “wrote” on top of it with the nail laquer so that it would be raised higher.  The higher it was, the better for me to light it and get the three dimensional look I was going for.

MAC Studio Sculpt SPF 15 Foundation.

Here’s, “Life”, aka “Sexual Chocolate”.  If this wasn’t foundation, I’d think it was pudding that I should dive into and love. 🙂

Mac Gloss Lipmix

I Ioved,  “Harmony”, but it was a hell of a lighting challenge.  How do you light something that’s clear and put directly on a mirror?  Very carefully…I probably took the most time shooting this one as it wasn’t an easy light.  In the end, though, I loved the outcome.

MAC Iridescent Powder  / Loose in Golden Bronze mixed with MAC Matte (Creme Matifiante)

MAC Baby’s on Fire (Dazzle) Lipstick.

Photographically, this is the one that I had the most fun with.  The base that it’s sitting on is this silver dish shaped like a leaf.  Obviously it reflected everything, so I thought to put a red gel over the top of me so that it would warm up the entire photo.  You can actually still see my hand near the top left third of the photo.  Distorted, yes, but still there..

MAC Electric Eel Eyeshadow / MAC Vibrant Grape Eyeshadow / MAC Mascara in Black / MAC Golden Lemon Pigment / MAC Neo Orange Pigment / MAC Fuchsia Pigment.

Flower was a real challenge for Moani as it had to be built upon and you can’t really clean it up if you make a mistake.  She did a wonderful job adding in all of the different colors and making this symbol.
MAC Mineralize All-Over Lotion

Here’s Moani working on “Life”, or as we nicknamed it, “Sexual Chocolate”. 🙂

Me downloading the images manually as the tether decided not to work that day…I dunno, would you trust this guy?   😉

On the right, in the foreground you can see a little bit of, “dream” and a nice closeup of the coffee that fueled us…

It turned out to be a fun, creative day.  I’d love to give props to my two partners in crime here, Moani Lee and David H for making this a wonderful story.

Special thanks to Joe Lombardo for bringing this story to Moani and I to shoot.  He was the catalyst that brought all of us together and got the creative spark going.  He’s also the photographer for the wonderful behind the scenes images you see here.

THE Team:
Photography: James Weber
Makeup/Styling/Story Boarding:  Moani Lee,
Graphic Artistry/Layout/Design: David H,

Retouching:  La Boutique Creative Retouching, These guys did an amazing job,  I’d highly recommend them.  They’re a very professional organization.

Hea7en Magazine Issue 4
:  There are many other wonderful artists here in this issue.  I was kind a blown away when I first saw it.  It’s art and photography rolled into one..

Thanks and see you again next time…

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Portillo Wine Ad Campaign

I’ve teamed up again with Creative Director, Henry Alvarez on the new campaign for Portillo Wines.  It’s always good to know the agency point of view, so I asked him, “From a branding point of view, what did you want to accomplish for Portillo with this ad?  What was the Client looking for?”

Henry: “We wanted an image with strong appetite appeal as well as create a mood and atmosphere that would bring an elegance to the dining experience.  Our assignment was to connect Portillo Malbec with steak. We played back and forth with a strong tagline. We finally arrived at “A Cut Above the Rest”.  Once done we ended up with a strong consumer Point of Sale campaign that elevated the brand.” 

The shots we needed were broken down into three individual images, which would then be combined to make the different creatives needed.

1. Shoot the wine bottle alone and the wine glass alone.  That would go towards the first creative.
2.  Shoot the food + wine glass, then add in the wine bottle shot in #1, which would go towards the second creative. The shots would all be used in a mix of website use and advertising formats.

So here is the first creative, made up of the bottle and wine glass separately and put together in post.  There would be no way to light both of them together and achieve this same result, thus the decision to shoot each of them separately.

So here was the set for the bottle shot.  The main light is coming from 2 strobes with reflectors shooting through the 4’x8′ plexi on the left hand side.  This softens up the light so that the rich detail in the label doesn’t get blown out.  The reflection on the right is created by the silver card on the right, sitting on the table.  The two reflections running up and down both sides of the bottle are created by the soft boxes in the back facing in.  Lastly, I’ve got one more light on the floor with a beauty dish + grid hitting the backdrop so that there is some separation from the background.  Below is the shot.

The individual wine glass shot I don’t actually have a behind the scenes photo of.  I had to create a totally black room out of black v-flats.  The only area for light the was possible was from the back side where I had the 4’x6′ feathered off.  It was a one softbox shot.  Getting the angle right was the hardest on this one so that there was a nice reflection on both sides of the glass and the wine showed up just enough.  I fired the camera remotely so that I wouldn’t be in the reflection.  It was much more to setup than to actually shoot.  We did have to do a little post on the glass as even as much as we tried to clean it, there was still a little dust here and there.

Here is the version with the Argentinian Steak.  Although I don’t have a behind the scenes for this one, I used Dedo Lights to do the job on this one instead of strobe. They allowed me to spotlight what I needed and provide a low depth of field.

A little about the wine and the region…click the image to see it larger.

So that’s it for now…stay tuned for more…

Thanks to the Team:

Photography: James Weber,
Creative Director, Henry Alvarez
Food Styling: Ed Gabriels,
First Assistant:  James Sullivan

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Rooftop Fashion Shoot

A while back I shot these images as part of a hair editorial that sadly did not get published.  Timing is everything, and in this case, we were a little late getting it out to the editors.  I was going over some of the images recently and I realized I never put them out there.  I really liked the lighting and what the team and I did that day.  I got to mix a little strobe with daylight, which I love.  It always gives you a somewhat otherworldly look that I enjoy.  It’s like taking reality and giving it a visual focus on what you want.  In this case, I used a two light setup.  In shot one you can see the bare head strobe that I kept in a few of the shots.  It creates an in-camera natural starburst(not photoshop).   In the last set of images, you see the Redwing boom that is over the head of the orange/red haired(wig) asian model.  That was set to a fairly high power setting so that it would overpower the daylight and give it a somewhat darker look like dusk, even though I shot them in full daylight.

Sometimes it’s nice to leave the lights/equipment in the for atmosphere.  I thought leaving in the boom in this shot made it a little more dynamic and gave it some scale.

The trick to getting these images right was adding in a table to get the models a few feet off of the roof top itself.  This allowed me to get underneath them and shoot up, giving me more of the city above, and less of the regular looking rooftop below.   It’s a more cinematic viewpoint.  The clouds added a wonderful background.  I think if this day was just a normal sunny day, they wouldn’t have the visual impact that they have.   Hair, Makeup, and Styling by the Tearsheet Artistic Team.

Here’s a couple behind the scenes shots.  I added some mylar to the table that we were using to elevate the models to give it a stronger fill from the bottom.  I also had to reinforce the table with some wood pieces too to make it safer…

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Smoky Mountain Serenity

Ahhhh….nothing like getting out of New York City for a little fresh air.  It’s been a while since I’ve gone on a little expedition to shoot the beauty of mother Earth.   The thing that I miss most by living in NYC has to be the lack of trees/forest/streams/fresh air…nature.  You really don’t realize it until you get out of the city and get into the forest and take a deep breath.   A good friend of mine, Rob,  invited me down to the Smoky Mountains for a little R & R.  It was nice getting a tour of the area from someone who grew up in these mountains.  We went down to shoot some of his land and trek out into some of the more remote areas and see the change of the seasons.

(If you click on the images, you’ll see it larger)
We arrived at a time when the leaves were fully into their change.   The reds, yellows, and greens were even more intense because of the rainy, overcast weather we encountered in the first 2 days.

Me shooting Rob shooting me.

Our Chariot. 🙂

We went off the beaten path and just enjoyed the natural beauty of it all.

The first two days we were there, the weather was always heavy overhead.  On Wednesday, in particular, we were driving along the long winding road up one of the peaks when the sky literally just opened up on us.    The following series of images were all taken from inside the car, through the front windshield using a polarizer to cut out the reflection of the glass.  The ghostly feel was created by shooting through a torrent of rain.  I’m firing in between the wiper blades.  The longer I waited after the blade, the softer it became(see last shot in series).   I love the painterly feel that they have.

Portrait of me by Rob

So We’re getting to the top of the mountain and the wind is getting more fierce.   The way the sounds whip between the trees seem to be saying something.  It’s peaceful and forceful all in the same breath.  The We’re up in the cloud layer fully now.  The top was crazy windy and the cloud layer was moving in and out as we watched…

A self-portrait in the reflection of the car window

This is a scene from right outside where we stayed, The Snowbird Mountain Lodge.  I would highly recommend it.  We stayed there three nights.  The food is amazing and the people and scenery couldn’t have been better.

This was one of of the more beautiful scenes we came across and happened to be on the first night driving towards the Lodge.

We were only there three days really.  The first day was pretty much shot just getting there.    I wish we could have spent more time in the mountains as we really only scratched the surface of what is out there.   It’s a beautiful land with a people to match.  I’ll be heading back there in the future I’m sure.  I’d like to thank my friend Rob for showing me around where he grew up.  It was a real treat to get the stories of the land and people from one who had grown up in this place.

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Water Sets…small and large.

(You can click any image below to see a larger version)

I thought I’d pass along a little of how I arrive at deciding to build certain sets. I’m a firm believer that if you think it(and it’s reasonable), anything is possible. The building blocks of this are material cost, space, time, and man(or woman) power. If you have all four, you can create anything your heart desires. Sometimes we have the space and time, people to create, but money becomes an issue. This should never stop creation, it should spur invention… This first set is born of a collaboration between myself and Jersey(stylist/set designer). Jersey and I have always worked well together in creative collaborations. We were given 2 six page spreads and told we had to have certain items in the shoot, but we could shoot it however we liked. I had wanted to do a water/nature shoot for a while, so we sat down and figured out the “how” of it. We had all of the required elements: Space(my studio), $$(relatively inexpensive), time and manpower were at hand as well. So the river/lake edge set was born.
This Project was built in a waterproof 4’x4′ enclosure that I made out of plywood and 2″x4″s. 1/2 of an old aerobed made the waterproofing for this one. It was sacrificed for the good of the project. 🙂Being on 28th St. between 7th and 8th avenue in Manhattan is a HUGE benefit to shooting Still Life. The Flower District is only one street over between 6th and 7th. If there’s a rock, tree, stump, or exotic flower that I need, it’s in one of the shops down the street. We went shopping for 4 different kinds of rocks/shale and a variety of vegetation that would give our set the look of a beautiful water paradise. We shot this over 2 VERY long days. Going from set to set took a while to break down and build up, but we both enjoy the building/creative process, so it was more fun that work. Especially when we saw the results of the work, we were very pleased. This was the one and only “dry” set shot. The look of the Sun in the background, for those interested in technical details were 2 bare bulb Profoto heads firing at full power on their own packs. I used this a few times during the shoot to simulate daylight shining through the vegetation. There were some outtakes and things we tried, but ultimately got left on the cutting room floor. I had this idea that dry ice would make for a bog-like place(think Empire Strikes Back with Yoda). Unfortunately, the dry ice just didn’t work in well with the other sets to make the story Gel together. Trust me…I’ll find a use for the dry ice yet. 🙂 Sooo…it got cut. But dry ice IS fun. 🙂

That’s me having fun with the dry ice. Very Yoda in Empire Strikes Back, No? Jersey working on jewelry placement.

The final result…with raindrops added by spashing from the sides and a high shutter speed to capture the “stop action”.

So I was thinking about what we accomplished with a 4’x4′ water set in studio… What if I could create a larger set with more water? Could I do a fashion shoot with men or women? The answer is an unequivocal YES. 🙂

For the next set…

Zink Magazine was doing their first Men’s Issue scheduled for publication in April of 2009(shot in Dec 2008). I thought this was the PERFECT time to try out my “human” water set theory. The product set above got me to thinking that it was possible to do this larger set in studio. It was December and really cold, so doing anything outside on the roof was completely out of the question. In Studio was the only way…I went to the hardware store and bought enough 2″x6″ boards to creat a 12’x12′ enclosure. I made sure that they had enough screws in them during construction that they would not break under the pressure of about 400 gallons of water that would eventually be in the enclosure. Then Costco comes into play with the 2 – 20’x20′ waterproof tarps that I used to waterproof the enclosure. I really had NO idea prior to doing this shoot whether the tarps would be completely waterproof. The box said water resistant. wow…this could be REALLY BAD. I was fairly sure that it was, but only found out after the fact that it worked perfectly…lol. No worries…everything was fine. 🙂 I have to say that Jonathan, our model, was a trooper throughout the whole thing. Even with keeping the studio very warm in the air, it’s impossible to make 400 gallons of water warm. The first 30 or so was hot, and then it was just a losing battle. So Jonathan had to get brave the cold every outfit. It didn’t help that everyone was spashing cold water on him to give the shot movement. Other artists on set:
Kim Baker: Grooming
Roy Fire: Wardrobe Stylist
Vincent: Splasher, Art Direction.

Back to the set for a minute…here’s a shot of the set once I put up the background for the left photo(above). We could get most of the clothes wet, but there were some that we couldn’t, thus, I shot it within the set below. So that was the Zink shoot… The last water set is Very Small. I was shooting Diamond earbud covers for the classic white IPOD headphones. These were made out of pink diamonds and retailed for around $50,000. What celebrity wouldn’t want them?? 😉 This was shot in a little bowl, maybe 1/2 inch of water. I used some wax to keep them upright(standard for jewelry shoots). To get the movement of the water, I used a fan blowing softly. That’s all for now….

I have some more projects in the works that I’ll share when completed. You can see more of my work at:

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News Flash – Behind the Scenes Video and Shoot

News Flash is a women’s story I did for Florida International Magazine for their September 2008 issue. I thought it would be nice to document the shoot for a behind the scenes look…

The Crew:
James Weber, Photographer
David Widjaja, Stylist
Kim Weber, Makeup
Miki Mori, Hair
Chris Miggles, Assistant/Set Design
Jason Koontz, Video

I’d like to thank Jason Koontz for his work on this piece. He did an amazing job videotaping and editing this for me.

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