Thursday, June 12, 2014

Hockey Confidential by Bob McKenzie

This had to be one of the craziest shoots I've done yet, at least with regards to timing. Talk about a test. We had what I figured was reasonable amount of time to get to the Mattamy Athletic Centre, set up a preconceived shot (I'd location scouted a couple of days before, and a rough layout was devised so we knew what we had to do), and shoot Bob McKenzie when he arrived at noon. But little did we know as we finished locking the camera into position, getting tethered to the laptop (now mounted on its own stand) and almost finished securing the light stand to a spot that wasn't wide enough to accommodate three spread legs that we would be told there was going to be a press conference right where we were set up so we would have to pack up and move.

What a scramble. We were shooting in the bleachers and not all sections were alike or would work in our layout. But we found a similar enough spot and humped all the gear over to the new spot, set up all over again, and were ready to go at 12:00 sharp! But where was Bob? Bob, it turned out, was stuck in traffic. No problem. The designer and I headed over to the other side of the rink to scout another possible spot for a second, alternative shot. 

Still no Bob. Apparently, according to the editor who went to greet him, he is now being stopped by fans. But eventually he arrives and we shoot and we get the shot!

We now have approximately half an hour to take whatever gear we will need to the other side of the rink for shot #2, but we can't get into the penalty box, where we will be shooting, until the players take their ten minute break, at which point we will have exactly ten minutes to get the gear in there, set up the camera (have to use a tripod because of the shutter speed), tether up, set up the light, shoot and get out. The buzzer goes and we leap into gear and as Bob is moving into the penalty box a player who recognizes him skates over to chat. I am briefly trapped behind him. But we get through and set up as fast as we possibly can. Someone yells "Zamboni!" and we spin the light (which we have on a boom out over the ice) out of the way so it doesn't get clipped. Almost as soon as we start shooting my assistant yells "shoot to card!" The capture software on the laptop has stalled. Thankfully I have an empty, formatted card in the camera just in case, so I yank the tether cable out of the camera and have shot maybe a dozen frames when the buzzer sounds and the players are at the gate. We have less than a minute to get out of their way. 

Not for the first time, once I get back to the studio to review the images, I find myself really liking one of the very last frames we shot, from the set-up that was 'just an alternative'. I know as I write this, of course, that they didn't go for that second shot for the cover, but I'm happy with the select. The book is out Oct. 2014. Read about it at

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Simple and Summery

When Nancy Vonk and Janet Kestin were interviewed for the Globe and Mail by Susan Krashinsky for an article entitled "Motherhood or career? A dynamic duo's case that women can do both" published June 6, 2014, one particular line in the piece really resonated for me: 

"Parents often develop greater patience, empathy, and coping skills. Those are traits bred out of necessity when faced with a tiny, screaming, irrational being, all while sleep deprived. But they can also be valuable in a work setting."

I have photographed quite a  few children over the years, both before and after having my own child, and I have to say, I really do have a different perspective now as a result of my own experience. One might say "well, duh" but I had some very smooth and happy shoots with babies, toddlers and children, before. I loved working with kids. Except for one brutal shoot that I will never forget. If only I could go back in time. 

Anyway, a few years ago I did a quick personal test shot of my son, never intended to be shared, and without much attention to detail or concept, but which had elements about it I really liked. I looked at the test print on my bulletin board every day for a long time and finally decided, with my now 10 years-in-development (parental) perspective, it might be worth redoing, with the same bright, simple feel, but with some planning, and a point. 

I knew the model I wanted to use, a certain little girl I knew to have a bubbly, slightly mischievous, but charming, independent and spirited personality. So I went in knowing full well I was really just going to have to let happen what would happen, within the somewhat loose (maybe not all that loose) framework I had created. And what happened? We shot over 200 frames and this little five year old girl was the most well-behaved, cooperative little trooper ever! (Note: she is not a model. But she could be!) What happened!?

The floral arrangement, which could not have been more perfect (thanks to a highly intuitive, and, really, spot-on interpretation of what I was looking for), was the work of my new friend Maija Reisenauer of the whimsically named Midge Flower Boutique. One of the newer creative tenants in our building, Maija brings ten years of experience (coincidentally the same amount of time I've spent experimenting with parenting!) to her art. The multi-talented Maija has also founded a successful line of cosmetics, and sells unique and lovely gifts in her boutique. How handy!

One final note: I realized going into this project that once again I was creating an image that doesn't really fit seamlessly anywhere in my current portfolio. Last year I 'threw out' a ton of images and made a concerted effort to define my vision more precisely. But honestly, I'm not interested in doing the same thing over and over again. One of the great things about being a photographer is that one can play with light, and play with subject matter, and create completely different images based on the way one combines those elements. That's what I love doing. And I'm going to keep doing that as long as I can.