ChuntElvisC1_pp copy

Ha Ha! My former colleague and uber-funny friend Mandi actually made this commented when she saw this photo. Well, that and it was a candidate for a MAD magazine caricature of a semi-sleazy south of the border photographer Mandi pinned on me yet to be named. Definitely NOT the original idea I had when I created this self-portrait image, but hey, go with what works, eh? I have to say the visual idea had been rattling around in my brain since the early 1980’s and was strongly influenced to the Elvis Costello album cover for his 1978 release This Years Model (no he didn’t use a comma in it) and childhood memories of my photographer father, David T Hunt III. What I’d wanted to portray was a 1970’s era photographer in his mid to late 50’s, a little past his prime hard working guy, the guy who’d come home exhausted late at night driving his heavy photo gear laden Oldsmobile 88, smelling a little of wedding candle wax, photo chemicals , sweat, Vitalis and Tiparillo Cigars. Channeling Elvis and my dad into this guy just sort of worked visually and I had the time and props to experiment so why not. I was also really anxious to use a lighting modifier I’d recently purchased. The image was so very well received on my Facebook page by friends and colleagues and I couldn’t have been happier.

Now the prop and techno bits … The props were a a Mamiya C22 medium format twin lens reflex film camera (actually the very same camera I used to shoot my very first studio photos and the same one my studio owner father gave me to ignite my interest in shooting), the tripod was a well used (note the hose clamp on the leg) salvaged one from my dad’s garage, most likely used to hold large long-roll 70mm school portrait cameras like Beaties, again era specific with an applicable beloved backstory. These were the days when things were built to last, were heavy and certainly pre-dated carbon fiber and modern collapsable accessories. My glasses are my dad’s original American Optical late 1950’s browlines with my RX in them, I also call these my “shooting glasses” and I believe the posses some strong family mojo, oh and that’s also dad’s tie.

Shooting bits … The image took a little while to get the lighting right and with all self-portraits, there’s a ton of running back and forth from the subject to the camera back, making sure you’ve got things looking just right. To make things somewhat easier, I was able to tether the camera, a Nikon D300s via a USB cord to my iMac computer situated behind the camera, for a bit quicker large screen preview so I wouldn’t be simply relying on a small 3″ LCD camera screen and a histogram for my test shots. I was shooting Nikon .NEF (RAW) files though, so exact exposure wasn’t a huge deal, but I wanted to get as close as I could, again channeling a virtual film critical environment, when failure and exposure adjustment wasn’t an option. After getting all the preview stuff ironed out, I worked on the lighting right. Looking at me, to the left (my right) the lighting is a 22″ beauty dish (Cowboy Studio version) on a Manfrotto Stand and illuminated with a vintage (yep another thing resurrected from dad’s garage) Vivitar 283 from the early 1970’s and a VP-1 Power dial (thank you eBay). Okay, I’m cheating a little and using a Strobist technique here with the strobes on stands with modifiers, because everything would’ve been either hot (continuous) lights, or large and powerful power pack based strobe units by Speedotron or Novatron.  There’s another Vivitar 283 on the floor behind me with a dark yellow gel shining on a large Savage white collapsable background and another 283 powered down to illuminate the camera, tripod and reduce some glasses shadows under my eyes. I also had a gold reflector on the right to bounce some nice warm light in. All the Vivitars were fired remotely using a Cowboy Studio hot shoe mounted popper system hanging just behind the prop Mamiya on a two second delay for “posing” time. Granted, I could have used my modern and totally capable fully remote Nikon SB-800’s and Nikon SU-800 system here, but I was really going for some vintage lighting accuracy and feel here, even if I was the only one who was aware of it!

Post production … The image was imported via Adobe Photoshop CS4 into my iMac using the Adobe plug-in for the Nikon D300s .nef (RAW) files, cropped in PS4, then opened in Portrait Professional retouching software, which I adore for light retouching, especially for people like me who are definitely NOT models. In PP I was able to render some of the changes I’d envisioned in the conceptual image from the very start, things that I would’ve performed with an airbrush, matte spray and Prismacolor pencils on a color print, when I’d originally conjured the image in my head in the 1980’s. I was also able to add some detailing and render a dark vignette using the RENDER LENS CORRECTION filters in PS4, I was also able to remove my dirty blonde look and darken my hair and beard to a bit more serious persona, remove some “distinction lines”, smooth and sharpen some other features – like the eyes, which I wanted to mimic the camera piercingly looking at you. Part of my illustrative approach to photography. In the end it’s very much the way I wanted it to look and very close (if not better) than I’d imagined it from 1981.

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Studio Toys

November 5, 2012

While cleaning out my late father’s belongings from his garage a couple of years ago, we found an old Samsonite suitcase under a few teetering stacks of dusty old photo equipment. Inside the suitcase was a cool and poignant surprise. Neatly tucked were many of the toys he and the other studio photographers had used to make children, especially babies, laugh during photo sittings in H&W Studio the family run business starting in the mid-1930’s at the corner of Hunter and Whitehall Streets in downtown Atlanta, Ga. The toys were most likely stored in the late 1990’s, when the portrait portion of the studio/commercial saw its last flash. Thanks for the surprise, laugh and the memories Dad.

Father Joseph Peek

July 24, 2012

As my friend Virginia and I almost said simultaneously, Father Peek just makes the rest of us look like a bunch of whiners when we talk about our everyday problems. I’m just starting a portrait project for The Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University’s Win The Fight 5K run. Of my first subjects was this amazingly strong and resilient man, Father Joseph Peek, a suburban Atlanta spiritual leader and former athlete and Navy Rescue Swimmer who was diagnosed with Leukemia in 2002 shortly after his ordination. Father Peek received a bone marrow transplant in 2003 that saved his life, but the new immune system from the transplant shortly set off a chain of fights within his body. The condition known as graft-versus-host-disease ravages Peek’s entire body and requires daily wound dressing changes, but it hasn’t deterred his strength and resolve to minister to the sick. This year will mark the second time Father Peek has participated in  the Winship 5K.

I chose to photograph Peek and the rest the survivors using a Nikon D7000 with a 17-55 f2.8 AFS Nikkor lens, set on manual exposure 1/250th of a second at f5.6 on flash white balance, using one shoot through umbrella and white reflector with a Nikon SU-800 Speedlight Commander unit triggering a Nikon SB-800 strobe set at 1/4 power in SU-4 mode on a black background for maximum Rembrandt effect to put maximum emphasis on the subject. Image © Chris Hunt 2012

For more of the portrait series go here.

Roger Dodger

May 26, 2012

While brainstorming ideas of just how to teach Photoshop to a group of teens who were born after the program was written and subsequently never knew many of these tools, I came up with this image to help illustrate the terminology of the lessons. Being a photo retoucher, illustrator and avid tactile photo manipulator since the early 80’s has paid off in tools in this case. A very good friend told me she could almost smell the oils and pastels just looking at this. That and “that food photo makes me rhungry” are some of the nicest comments I’ve ever received on my photos. Image created from 7 .nef RAW Nikon files with one stop difference increments. Processed in Photomatix pro software.

Recently I was honored with the photojournalistic opportunity to observe what friend, pediatrician, volunteer and winner of the 2011 David Lawrence Community Service Award, Dr Susan Reines M.D, faces daily at the Dekalb County Georgia Refugee Pediatric Clinic in Decatur. The clinic doctor Reines volunteers at is an amazing place, with incredibly gifted and versatile doctors and a super dedicated staff of PA’s, nurses, administrators, technicians and a room full of brilliant multilingual interpreters. On this particular day, doctor Reines saw no less than twenty patients and doubly impressive that none of them spoke english. Most of the patients visiting the clinic come from politically bruised and war torn countries from the Himalayan region of the world, Burma, Nepal and Tibet, others from African nations in turmoil. The clinic’s interpreters alone must know every dialect (some countries have three or more) of each country and handwriting of the particular languages of the patients for doctor patient information and instructions. It is truly another world through these doors and few see it beyond sitting in rush hour traffic on North Decatur road wondering how those folks waiting at the bus stop can walk around in 30 degree temperatures in sandals.

Participatory Journalism

March 22, 2012

It took all day Monday to shoot the footage finally used for a 3.21 minute mountain bike test video this week. That is, it took all day to go 12 miles while trying to get every possible angle of the trail (and me) I could think of on my bike. I don’t even want to think about what that equates to in MPH! Let’s see, handlebar mount forward, handlebar backward, helmet, seat post facing backward, chest mount and trailside POV. Aside from my soon to arrive down tube clamp mount I think that might cover most of the angles I could use a POV camera on. The trailside views were done using my Canon G12 on a Joby Gorillapod with a very useful quick release and bubble level although the Canon actually has a nice electronic leveler on it. The goal was to have something other than the usual run of the mill one angle (usually forward) that plagues most trail videos and makes them difficult to watch, for me anyway. The sequence of crossing the rock and creek near the beginning was a combo of chest mount and trailside views spliced together to make the few seconds of video. The sequencing was fun to see just where certain cuts in the view should come to make an interesting clip. The whole two days of shooting and editing resulted in some good lessons and a few tweaks I’m be sure to remember. One of them was remember to shoot stills as well on top of all the other angles for final editing. Stills make for good small detail shots and day start/end title backgrounds for multi day projects. Also remembering to shoot some macro shots of stuff might be good footage as well. Swirling pollen in a creek eddy, insects on a tent fly, bubbling food, shadows, etc. What a cool medium this is and how fun to be experimenting with something new, doing something I love!

Time lapse with Go Pro 2

February 6, 2012

Continued experimentation with my Go Pro 2 point of view camera this weekend on the back porch. This was over a period of 45 minutes with 2 second intervals between frames. Images were combined using iMovie with download music from the Vimeo Music Store. One odd thing is right at :35 a streak goes across the sky followed by another so close it couldn’t be jets which are regulated to a one mile airspace. Meteors? Credit for this nice music piece, “Veloma” by Fabrizio Paterlini (http://www.fabriziopaterlini.com)

Trying to make a point and shoot do what a DX format DSLR can do today. Using a Canon G12 set on manual at 100ISO 25oth of a second at f5.6, one old Vivitar 283, a set of Cowboy Studio radio poppers (because god knows what the voltage coming off the bottom of a 30+ year old 283 is) and a Lumiquest large foldable softbox diffuser I came pretty close to my goal. I’d been curious what the newer generation of P&S cameras were capable of (and as I write Canon has just released the G1X large sensor compact camera) and aside from the dubious subject matter, who some have equated to either a mad zeppelin pilot or a mad vintage bike racer, the image came out looking pretty cool.

 

Image is Everything

December 18, 2011

Over the winter, a goal will be to put together a better travel photography rig for bikepacking adventures and general bumming around with camera gear COMMENTS AND SUGGESTIONS WELCOMED. Currently a run of the mill point and shoot (Canon A610) has been my choice for lack of having much else, but it has its limits on image clarity and quality, plus it’s showing some signs of wear for a few years of adventures and abuse. Ideally a lightweight new mirrorless body, carbon fiber panning head tripod and an HD POV (point of view) camera will give me the necessary quiver to bring back enough raw imagery to make something worth viewing. If the final self narrative product comes out looking more like a Les Stroud Adventureman episode and less like The Blair Witch Project I’ll be a happy man. Now, fit all this into a 5″x 12″ padded case I won’t be cursing on the long climbs is something else. Anyone interested in reading and seeing more about this incredibly versatile rig I use, go here for a more than detailed rundown, list and test flight. Also, if anyone’s wondering what Santa should leave under the tree this year. AA lithium batteries please and lots of them.  Here’s a bikepacking documentary done solely with a Canon G12 still/video card based Hi Def camera that inspires me!  Make sure you click the 720 DPI key at the bottom of the screen for full res on the video.