“I think that life has plans and you only have to be awake and aware to follow them” – Alan Faena
Hmmmm. My kinda of portrait subject. How can you not be inspired to photograph Alan Faena. He’s an Argentine hotelier and real estate developer who is creating and building a billion dollar arts district called Faena district on Miami Beach, Fl. That’s cool! But what I enjoyed most about meeting photographing Alan, was talking to him about his spiritually and yoga practice. I also practice yoga and it’s my brief that a mindfulness practice is very important for an artist or in my case a photographer who would like to grow his art. It’s pretty simple. When you shooting a portrait or setting up a shot it helps put you into the “zone” by being present, in the moment. Clearing your mind of yesterdays ghosts or debris and of tomorrow’s dreams. Observe and embrace the moment. You won’t always have a subject as charismatic as Faena. But by truly embracing the time you have with someone, you will perhaps be able to find out what’s makes a person special.
I enjoy using a tripod. It slows me down and helps in fine tuning just the right angle or viewpoint. This carbon fiber tripod is the TVC-24L from RRS or Really Right Stuff. Its rugged, strong and light weight, well suited for double duty, I take it with me on my landscape photography trips as well as my commercial and advertising photography commissions. Between the tripod and camera, is my favorite bullhead. The Arca-Swiss Monorail Z1 dp has a quick release, very fluid and precise adjustments.
For the opening photo we shot underneath a stairway that had a skylight which provided a nice soft overhead light. The curved shape of the winding stairway created some nice shadows creating a wonderful flowing depth. Those shadows worked well on the background, but Alan’s face needed a bit of pop. My photo assistant John Karp, handheld a B1 profoto with an 36″ Octabank fitted with a grid. This gave a directional crisp soft light which brought out Faena cheekbones and added a bit of kick to his eyes. For this portraiture I used a medium format digital camera called the Phase One IQ260 XF Camera with a Schneider Kreuznach 55mm LS f/2.8 . The 55mm lenses is equivalent or has about the same angle of view as a 35 mm wide angle lens in 35mm DSLR format. I prefer to shoot at a low iso, in this case I at iso 100 and the tripod allowed me to use a slow shutter speed to get the right amount of ambient light balanced with the strobe.
In terms of directing Alan, it was more about building a connection. I did a bit of pre-shoot research and found out about a retreat his family has in Argentina, and I knew that he was very much interest in yoga. I asked him questions and talked to him about my yoga practice.
The second set-up was in the Faena theater. We had pre positioned the lighting so all Alan needed to do was sit down and immediately get to work. When my team receives a photography commission we try to figure out ways to get the most set-ups in the shortest time. The subjects are more likely be willing to do more looks if you they don’t have to wait around for the lights to be moved from set-up to set-up.
The dramatic curtains provided an excellent backdrop! No need to bring out the seamless. A profoto beauty dish as a key light provided just enough pop to sculpt Alan’s face, combined with a large 74′ Elinchrome octabank behind the camera to fill in any shadows.
An important part of my digital workflow includes photographing while tethered to a laptop. This allows instantly review of the image and is done using a professional capture and digital raw processing software called, Capture One, with its solid image capturing I have never lost an image on set.
Alan always wears white and with his trademark hat. With this image I wanted to portray his grace and balance spirit. I think the blue color grade added a coolness to the image, but the straw toned hat manages to float, giving the image a three dimension feel. It’s useful to carry a small roll of seamless paper or neutral tone fabric and do a simple clean photograph, to give the photo editor, in this case, Ronnie Weil of The Wall Street Journal a cover option with room for type treatment.
The penthouse house glass balcony doors let in a beautiful layer of soft light for the seamless set-up. My first assistant, John Karp stands beside me, keeping a watchful eye open and ready to make any adjustments to the camera or set-up. A silver fabric on the wooden floor bounces a bit of pop into Alan’s eyes and blocked some of the brown spill from the floor.
This is how it ran in the The Wall Street Journal. Thanks to Ronnie Weil, the most excellent photo editor for this assignment.
Thanks for reading! Any questions feel free to give me a shout. I get most of my gear from the good folks at Capture Integration.