Learning Prism Photography in the Swamps and Streets of New Orleans by Zack Smith

Lost Bayou Ramblers through the crystal ball. Prism photography in New Orleans!

Lost Bayou Ramblers through the crystal ball. Prism photography in New Orleans!

As a photographer do you ever get stuck in a creative rut? Creative gridlock happens to me more often than I care to admit, but luckily I found my new muse to get the ideas running full speed again. I discovered prism photography by happenstance one day while on Instagram when I ran across a post from a photography acquaintance who I shot last years Voodoo Fest with, C3 shooter Katrina Barber. She showed a post using a prism she made, and it ignited one of those infectious Google Search Time Warps where I was searching and researching Google on prism photography, prisms, and photographers who use prisms. I found so much great inspiration in those searches, and I came away with buying a set of old school original prisms from Amlong Crystals. 

Yes, you probably recognize this type of prism from physics class in grade school.  Did you know that when held up to your lens you can not only project the full spectrum of light into your lens but reflect anything within a 180 degree radius into your lens? Creative rut be damned! I also bought a Crystal Sphere set as well and have been experimenting with that. As in our Prisms are sometimes used for the internal reflection at the surfaces rather than for dispersion. If light inside the prism hits one of the surfaces at a sufficiently steep angle, total internal reflection occurs and all of the light is reflected. This makes a prism a useful substitute for a mirror in some situations. Does this make you want to walk the streets of New Orleans with one of these? Me too!

Whenever I get my hands on a new way of seeing, like a prism for photography, I immediately take to the street and the swamps of Louisiana to try it out. What better environment to get out of your creative rut than New Orleans! 

Street walking documentary in New Orleans with prism photography

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There are so many variations you can make to your composition by the way you hold the prism to your lens. I suggest (and many other prism photographers) to use at least a 50mm, or something close to that so you can cover the full front of the lens and focal length with your prism. In most cases I was using the cylindrical prism held horizontally in front of the lens. I was holding it directly up to the UV filter so I could balance and stabilize the prism. This I found very hard to do, because you only have so many hands to hold the camera stable, hold the prism stable, and create a good composition at the same time. This was a challenge, but I managed. 

I wasn't pointing the camera at this guy, but the prism allowed me to have him in the frame!

I wasn't pointing the camera at this guy, but the prism allowed me to have him in the frame!

Prism photography of musicians in the sweaty swamps of New Orleans' Couterie Forest

As you all know me by now, or are just learning, I shoot ALOT of New Orleans and Louisiana musicians. Being a musician most of my life, it's the circle of people I have been around the longest and can effectively communicate their visual needs and creative ideas with ease. One of the longest relationships I've had in this manner is with the Lafayette based Lost Bayou Ramblers. I have been photographing this band's promotional photography since 2000 and anytime they need new imagery for an album release, new member add, or a big gig - they call me. I am very grateful to have this relationship because these guys let me get as creative and "out there" as I want. There's a certain trust afforded here, and I am thankful for that...because I get to use prisms!

This is a great crystal ball i purchased from Amlong as well. Prism photography on point!

This is a great crystal ball i purchased from Amlong as well. Prism photography on point!

Here i am reflecting the palmetto on the ground into the prism, and into my lens.

Here i am reflecting the palmetto on the ground into the prism, and into my lens.

New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau May 2017 Guide Cover by Zack Smith

It was a delight to see my images on the cover of the National Travel and Tourism Week guide for the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau. At the end of 2016 I began a wonderful working relationship with the CVB and the New Orleans Tourism and Marketing Corporation providing stock photography and creating new content for their ongoing campaigns. The images above are a mix of French Quarter Fest photographs with new produced photo shoots featuring Preservation Hall Jazz Band and many others. It is the ultimate job for me where I get to tell the story of the city I love working with the talented musicians, artists, and service industry workers that make this city the reason why we love it.

GALLERY: Chalmette High Cultural Arts Center presents: The Little Mermaid by Zack Smith

When 16 hour rehearsal days payoff...

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Once again the crew, musicians, and above all the kids (performers and artists) performed to the top of their ability at this year's rendition of The Little Mermaid. It is truly a sight to see the amount of talent up on one stage and down the road in St. Bernard Parish. Every note by the live orchestra, every tap of dance, vibrato and libretto was done by a kid and some as young as six years old. The Cassar family lived up to expectations once again and delivered a body of work that the kids of The Performing Arts Academy exploded with energy and gusto on the stage. I'll let the rest of this review continue in images.

SEE 2016's Beauty and the Beast Gallery HERE!

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CLICK THE PHOTO TO ENLARGE and ENJOY!

PROGRESS at Pecha Kucha New Orleans June 29th, 2017 by Zack Smith

"So - I had been there, and I know what it’s like to have a grand idea that was mine and mine alone grow from the spark of inspiration. I know what it’s like to drop all reason, lose the concept of time and rush to create, only to have no tools construct, no foundation to begin the structure..." quote from Zack at Pecha Kucha Night New Orleans, June 29th, 2017

Pecha Kucha New Orleans allowed me to gain insight on my own photography and I am grateful.

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"Progress is knowing that you just showed someone that the story of them Is the most important factor in their success as a visual communicator…" - PK NOLA 6/29/17

I was recently asked to participate as a presenter at Pecha Kucha Night New Orleans (check them out HERE)and I jumped at the chance to show my photographs and speak on a the topic of Progress. My version of progress is different than most might think. For me it's not "forward progression" or "momentum" that defines PROGRESS. Progress is something that is attained inside the self, inside the community, inside the heart and mind. I'd like to share my speech and images here. I will send a link to the video when it's posted.

I’ve always loved a good story. My dad told stories so well you didn’t know what was real and what was true but it was all story, and you loved it. As a visual communicator, I love a good story more now that I get to tell the story of others. It is a challenge but i love what I do. I get to read in between the lines of dreams and emotions and pull the story from someone’s head and heart and show it to them.

Amanda Helm rides ashore a Mississippi River tree. ©Zack Smith 2012

Amanda Helm rides ashore a Mississippi River tree. ©Zack Smith 2012

So my story over the last 15 years I has sounded like a skipping record to myself, repeating these photographic philosophies I have made to help those that want to learn how to see like the camera sees.

“Shoot for the Wall”

“Intention in Capture vs Purpose in Presentation”

“Know the Why in each Exposure and find the Story”

“We don’t take snapshots, we make great photographs”

“Be a Student of Light”

Progress for me is seeing someone in the act of learning and seeing their mind in the awe of grasping a new concept. Owning it, and finally GETTING IT. There’s no greater feeling than seeing that light bulb go off in someone’s head…It starts as an ember glow, a hint of hope, a silent gasp that erupts into a confident creative tool that is sharp and ready to use

James Singleton on his front porch Bayou St. John New Orleans, LA. ©Zack Smith Photography

James Singleton on his front porch Bayou St. John New Orleans, LA. ©Zack Smith Photography

Not until I learned how to intentionally practice empathy and truly put myself in someone else’s confused, inquisitive, and thirsty mind did I see how to relate the concept of shutter speed, aperture, and focal length, Rear sync, shutter drag, bokeh, key light, rim light, chiaroscuro, and perspective as it relates to learning photography.

But at one time, I had no fucking clue. I only knew that my words needed the visual. I HAD to make photographs and I still do believe that this is my calling, why I was born or put here on this earth. 

So - I had been there, so I know what it’s like to have a grand idea that was mine and mine alone grow from the spark of inspiration. I know what it’s like to drop all reason, lose the concept of time and rush to create, only to have no tools construct, no foundation to begin the structure.

I remember what it was like to be driven and to drive your life not knowing where the hell you were going. I was mentoring with any photographer that would take me on assisting in the field, the darkroom, and even discussion the how’s and why’s of a particular photo. I was driven by the thirst for knowledge and the passion for growth. I sacrificed much, taking the only bathroom in my college apartment and turning it into a chemical darkroom to learn how to process film and print. I learned by doing, i learned by messing up, roll after roll after roll of film hanging in my apartment bathtub on clothespins and string

Ashlee Michot in her Field of Mary's, Arnaudville, LA ©Zack Smith Photography

Ashlee Michot in her Field of Mary's, Arnaudville, LA ©Zack Smith Photography

Teaching photograpy for me was a way to constantly remind myself that I came from the same place as so many inquiring minds and creative souls that don’t know where they’re going but don’t care, as long as there’s a story to be told, and photographed to be put on a wall.

So I kept teaching, putting myself in their shoes and in the process I was in turn learning the life lessons myself as I was watching and teaching others. I started to take my own advice to go inward in my own creative self and for me progress didn’t mean Upward, Onward and Some sort of success ….

It meant Inward, Soul, Heart, Self

Nick Slie in Lake Verrett swamp. ©Zack Smith Photography

Nick Slie in Lake Verrett swamp. ©Zack Smith Photography

“Shoot for the Wall” -

 

Means to make every composition count - own every mm of space on that piece of film or sensor and make your foreground, background, and subject make sense. We only put our best images on a wall...so why not shoot w/ the intention of making a print.

 

“Intention in Capture / Purpose in Presentation”

 

To make a great photograph we must know the WHY - why are we choosing this subject, in this place, with this light? Is this the moment of capture or is there a better one? Have we studied our environment, have we lived a day in our subjects shoes, do we know if the rays of of a backlit sun could provide better depth?....We must be students of our subjects and masters of it’s light.

 

Through teaching others I have realized that Progress isn’t about what new piece of gear you own, how many clients you have, who you photographed where and “if they Tweeted about it using your name and OMG i have 5 new followers!!”

Progress isn’t about being #1, being the best, or at the top of your game

Progress isn’t ONWARD UPWARD FORWARD

Progress is feeling a connection inside to another human being.

Progress is being confident in the tools of your own creativity.

Progress is knowing that you just showed someone that the story of them Is the most important factor in their success as a visual communicator as their story will be the fuel to find their “WHY” to shoot for their WALL.

 

Creating Dynamic Portraits in an Inspirational Space: The New Orleans Airlift Music Box Series by Zack Smith

Selfie 101: Your backgrounds and your subjects are equally important! 

Selfie 101: Your backgrounds and your subjects are equally important! 

To me, there are some simple rules that dictate how to make a great portrait. No, it doesn't involve someone famous or strikingly good looking. Maybe in the early stages of one's portrait photography journey it's easy to make good photographs of good looking people, posing, preening, and playing for the camera. You pop off a couple of strobes and WALAH! you have a portrait. For me it's always been much more of a process, but still very simple. 

To make a great portrait you must have Engagement and Environment.

I recently had both of those rules come true in so many ways during my recent collaboration with the folks at The Music Box in New Orleans. I went to the creators of New Orleans Airlift to float my idea of creating one of a kind dynamic portraits of the musical collaborations that took place at their one of a kind venue. The idea was to feature each musical structure and environment as a background story to accompany a portrait of each artist that played there. Lucky for me, every artist that performed this season was down for the idea, and always willing to bring their most creative spirit to each session. As most of you know, this kind of creative spirit is alive and well in New Orleans!

Each portrait I did was based on having a different background featuring the amazing musical structures built at The Music Box. I have sincere and great gratitude for all the creators of this art and Delaney, Taylor, Jay and Leah for making this dream a reality. Without their guidance, continued support, and organization this project would not have happened...

Each portrait session we did had to be done right after the last soundcheck and before the doors opened for the first performance. As you may guess, this very very small tiny window of time is an extremely high pressure stressful time for all parties: sound men turning nobs and fixing monitors, musicians running around trying to put on costumes while testing microphones, organizers setting up frantically while waiting for the dozens to hundreds of people lined up in the 9th Ward neighborhood to be let it. And then there was me...running around with two lights in hand, testing my strobes, composing my scenes and reading and adjusting for the quickly changing ambient light. Yeah, it's about 30 minutes of hustle for 5 minutes of shooting if I am lucky! This is really what being a photographer in New Orleans is all about for me: Creativity Under Pressure! (More BLOG posts on this topic here: Creativity Under Pressure, and Creativity and Diversification in Photography Business )

Learn How to Make Dynamic Portraits like the ones in my series! JOIN my Upcoming Workshop in New Orleans - Art of the Photographic Portrait at The Music Box - Saturday, August 19th

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE!

The structures at the Music Box are fully functional art and music installations.

The structures at the Music Box are fully functional art and music installations.

The user must stand inside this piece, hold the rope...sway and move to the chimes.

The user must stand inside this piece, hold the rope...sway and move to the chimes.

Each installation gives me ideas to create a unique environment for my subject. I had Taylor help me navigate the pulleys and wires of this piece to install one of my radio transmitted strobes which I gelled orange for the Norah Jones/Tank and the Bangas shoot.

Each installation gives me ideas to create a unique environment for my subject. I had Taylor help me navigate the pulleys and wires of this piece to install one of my radio transmitted strobes which I gelled orange for the Norah Jones/Tank and the Bangas shoot.

Photographer Lemar Arceneaux and I trying to figure out if this mirror could add some dynamics and depth to the image. It didn't..and we moved on!

Photographer Lemar Arceneaux and I trying to figure out if this mirror could add some dynamics and depth to the image. It didn't..and we moved on!

If you haven't been to The Music Box, then it might be hard to know what I am talking about so I will show you in photos...but first: Each background you see, each structure in each portrait...is able to be played. Yes, played by a musician or a performer, or the wind and the rain. The art pieces are drums, sound machines, rotating dual speak phone booths, wind chimes, and much much more. The music that is made at The Music Box is like no other music made anywhere else. 

I had both elements of a great portrait - the Environment of The Music Box and the Engagement of the artists there to collaborate. I hope you enjoy, and I URGE YOU to visit The New Orleans Airlift's website to see their upcoming events and attend a performance. It will change the way you look at how music can be made AND enjoyed. I was honored to be able to work with each artists performing at the Music Box as they gave me their time (which was in short supply) and especially their honest, collaborative, engagement. 

One of our first shoots was with Gogol Bordello and New Orleans band Debauch. I really only had 5 minutes to setup, not even knowing if the band would even have time to pose. Lucky for me they had exactly 60 seconds. 

One of our first shoots was with Gogol Bordello and New Orleans band Debauch. I really only had 5 minutes to setup, not even knowing if the band would even have time to pose. Lucky for me they had exactly 60 seconds. 

Lost Bayou Ramblers, Langhorn Slim, Rickie Lee Jones and Spider Stacy serenade the Music Box...

Lost Bayou Ramblers, Langhorn Slim, Rickie Lee Jones and Spider Stacy serenade the Music Box...

Rickie Lee Jones uses the pay phone on site to sing through it's dual spinning speakers...

Rickie Lee Jones uses the pay phone on site to sing through it's dual spinning speakers...

Norah Jones collaborated with New Orleans group Tank and the Bangas for a very special evening. You can see here, I used my backlight to create a warm glow amidst the cool twilight night.

Norah Jones collaborated with New Orleans group Tank and the Bangas for a very special evening. You can see here, I used my backlight to create a warm glow amidst the cool twilight night.

Bonnie "Prince" Billy performed with the Roots of Music and just watching him direct and perform and rehearse with a show time energy was amazing.

Bonnie "Prince" Billy performed with the Roots of Music and just watching him direct and perform and rehearse with a show time energy was amazing.

New Orleans' Roots of Music

New Orleans' Roots of Music

The Roots of Music at The Music Box

The Roots of Music at The Music Box

Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Tredafilka, The Bitchin Bajas, and Roots of Music pose in yet another epic symmetry at the Music Box!

Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Tredafilka, The Bitchin Bajas, and Roots of Music pose in yet another epic symmetry at the Music Box!

Mike Dillon brought his New Orleans Punk Rock Percussion Consortium to the Music Box which featured Simon Berz, Mark Southerland, Clint Maedgen, Tiffany Lamson, Andrew Bohren, Brian Haas and many more!

Mike Dillon brought his New Orleans Punk Rock Percussion Consortium to the Music Box which featured Simon Berz, Mark Southerland, Clint Maedgen, Tiffany Lamson, Andrew Bohren, Brian Haas and many more!

Having known and photographed Mike Dillon for a few years, I was comfortable getting to the rehearsal early and documenting them up close. I was also able to setup earlier to do individual portraits, something I had never done until this show. It had been suggested to me by Jay Pennington of the New Orleans Airlift. Now it's something I do each show...thanks Jay!

Having known and photographed Mike Dillon for a few years, I was comfortable getting to the rehearsal early and documenting them up close. I was also able to setup earlier to do individual portraits, something I had never done until this show. It had been suggested to me by Jay Pennington of the New Orleans Airlift. Now it's something I do each show...thanks Jay!

Drummer Paul Thidbodeax drums high in the trees.

Drummer Paul Thidbodeax drums high in the trees.

Tiffany Lamson of GIVERS rehearses with Mike Dillon's NOPRPC.

Tiffany Lamson of GIVERS rehearses with Mike Dillon's NOPRPC.

BEFORE......Music Box Installation

BEFORE......Music Box Installation

AFTER - with Dustan Louque! I decided to crop those images above to show you how I approach each setting at The Music Box. First i find the right installation and decide if it makes  a good background. I then experiment with some lighting, then add the subject! ENVIRONMENT + ENGAGEMENT - THERE YOU HAVE IT!

AFTER - with Dustan Louque! I decided to crop those images above to show you how I approach each setting at The Music Box. First i find the right installation and decide if it makes  a good background. I then experiment with some lighting, then add the subject! ENVIRONMENT + ENGAGEMENT - THERE YOU HAVE IT!

ANOTHER epic group portrait at The Music Box! Dustan Louque presented "Dub Down Babylon" which featured Layla McCalla, Nels Cline, Blato Zlato and many more...

ANOTHER epic group portrait at The Music Box! Dustan Louque presented "Dub Down Babylon" which featured Layla McCalla, Nels Cline, Blato Zlato and many more...

Preservation Hall Jazz Band pose in the setting sun of the last show at the Music Box this season...till next season!

Preservation Hall Jazz Band pose in the setting sun of the last show at the Music Box this season...till next season!

 

A little bit about New Orleans Airlift, taken from their site:

New Orleans Airlift is an artist-driven initiative that collaborates and creates alongside the artists and communities they support.

Airlift was founded in 2008 by musician and artist manager Jay Pennington and Delaney Martin, a multi-media installation artist, as a response to the unparalleled destruction of Hurricane Katrina and its devastating aftermath which left local artists, like all New Orleanians, struggling for their lives and livelihoods. Jay and Delaney recognized a need for new audiences who could support these artists as they rebuilt their city. They dreamt up a one-time project that took city artists to Berlin and called it The New Orleans Airlift after the Berlin Airlift of WWII. Other exchange projects that used an import/export model and a multidisciplinary approach soon followed and the name stuck.

Airlift programming highlights the city's underground art and under-the-radar artists, transporting the dynamic street culture, living folk culture and growing contemporary arts scene of New Orleans to far-flung locations around the world for exhibitions, workshops, festivals, performances, and collaborative projects. Airlift also brings influential artists from abroad to participate in collaborative endeavors with local artists in this special community. They believe that collaboration between artists and across communities shares resources, empowers learning and unites disparate groups in common and powerful goals.

"New Orleans is the last great bastion of living folk culture in the United states. Airlift projects honor tradition alongside innovation, leading our artists, culture and communities in meaningful new directions."

The Energy and the Images that are Jazz Fest and Beyond - Photo Gallery by Zack Smith

Amidst the crowds and logos and branding there is magic, mystery and tons of moments during Jazz Fest in New Orleans, Louisiana. ©Zack Smith Photography 2017

Amidst the crowds and logos and branding there is magic, mystery and tons of moments during Jazz Fest in New Orleans, Louisiana. ©Zack Smith Photography 2017

Jazz Fest means so much to so many people and I hope you enjoy this photo gallery of what it means to me as an observer of the inside scoop and witness to the tantalizing fringe.The name "Jazz Fest" (all caps of course, Amen.) in New Orleans is now synonymous with an over reaching 24 hour a day, 10 day work week of music, moments, and more music. During the fairgrounds portion of this music marathon, the Mid City/Bayou St. John neighborhood gets over run with daytime wafting decibels. At night, the countless clubs, bars, and faubourg haunts carry multiple musical acts and sunrise shows to be remembered and soon dubbed "legendary". But what happens during these watershed moments are the hours spent in recording studios, rehearsal halls, and off the beaten path venues that makes Jazz Fest legendary. Musicians flock to New Orleans to play a gig or two, or ten but you can find them recording in local studios and taking part in very non-traditional music happenings around town.

During the course of this years Jazz Fest Season I had the pleasure of photographing for a different department at Jazz Fest thus finding new moments and new angles for what I thought was an overshot fest. I was wrong. There are so many undiscovered views that uncover themselves when looked at with new eyes. Photographing the world around us with a fresh set of eyes, a new perspective, can often lead to new discoveries. 

As part of my ongoing portrait series at The New Orleans Airlift Music Box, I was able to photograph Mike Dillon's New Orleans Punk Rock Percussion Consortium and Dustan Louque's Dub Down Babylon, all with amazing performers and special guests. During this festival season I was also asked to document an epic recording session from local transplant blues man, Seth Walker. The session was done at The Music Shed and featured the legendary New Orleans drummer Johnny Vidacovich, New York jazz organist John Medeski, and bassist Myles Weeks.

I hope you enjoy this gallery from 10 days of festival life, love, and magic moments!

ALL IMAGES ©Zack Smith Photography and may not be used outside of this gallery. If you like the images, share the gallery! If you're in the image, send me an email! zack@zacksmith.com

At the ceremonial sound of the bell, the Fairgrounds opens at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival as crowds race to claim their coveted spot on the lawn.

At the ceremonial sound of the bell, the Fairgrounds opens at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival as crowds race to claim their coveted spot on the lawn.

Yvonne Grant dances to Jonathan Batiste and Stay Human at her first Jazz Fest

Yvonne Grant dances to Jonathan Batiste and Stay Human at her first Jazz Fest

Visiting country Cuba brought many musicians to Jazz Fest, Conga Los Hoyos was an amazing percussion group that played and marched many times.

Visiting country Cuba brought many musicians to Jazz Fest, Conga Los Hoyos was an amazing percussion group that played and marched many times.

Visiting country Cuba brought many musicians to Jazz Fest, Conga Los Hoyos was an amazing percussion group that played and marched many times.

Visiting country Cuba brought many musicians to Jazz Fest, Conga Los Hoyos was an amazing percussion group that played and marched many times.

Big Chief Juan Pardo and the Golden Comanche Indians backstage at the Jazz and Heritage Stage on Friday, April 28th

Big Chief Juan Pardo and the Golden Comanche Indians backstage at the Jazz and Heritage Stage on Friday, April 28th

I documented the progression of muralist Roberto Guerra Hechaverria as he painted in a mural near the Cuba Pavillion.

I documented the progression of muralist Roberto Guerra Hechaverria as he painted in a mural near the Cuba Pavillion.

Muralist Roberto Guerra Hechaverria painting at Jazz Fest 2017.

Muralist Roberto Guerra Hechaverria painting at Jazz Fest 2017.

New Orleans muralist and poster artist BMike, Brandon Odums,  poses in front of his original painting of New Orleans musician Jonathan Batiste.

New Orleans muralist and poster artist BMike, Brandon Odums,  poses in front of his original painting of New Orleans musician Jonathan Batiste.

Decisions, decisions, decisions. The Cubes tell all...

Decisions, decisions, decisions. The Cubes tell all...

Dance where you can, under the stars or under the trees. 

Dance where you can, under the stars or under the trees. 

The Original Big 9 Social Aid and Pleasure Club march with The Chosen Ones Brass Band through the pathways of Jazz Fest.

The Original Big 9 Social Aid and Pleasure Club march with The Chosen Ones Brass Band through the pathways of Jazz Fest.

The Original Big 9 Social Aid and Pleasure Club march with The Chosen Ones Brass Band through the pathways of Jazz Fest.

The Original Big 9 Social Aid and Pleasure Club march with The Chosen Ones Brass Band through the pathways of Jazz Fest.

The Original Big 9 Social Aid and Pleasure Club march with The Chosen Ones Brass Band through the pathways of Jazz Fest.

The Original Big 9 Social Aid and Pleasure Club march with The Chosen Ones Brass Band through the pathways of Jazz Fest.

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Muralist Roberto Guerra Hechaverria continues his mural at Jazz Fest 2017.

Muralist Roberto Guerra Hechaverria continues his mural at Jazz Fest 2017.

Roberto Guerra Hechaverria continues his mural...

Roberto Guerra Hechaverria continues his mural...

Members of the Uptown Swingers SAPC prepare backstage at the Economy Hall tent on Saturday, April 29th.

Members of the Uptown Swingers SAPC prepare backstage at the Economy Hall tent on Saturday, April 29th.

Jonathan Batiste and Stay Human perform on the Acura Stage.

Jonathan Batiste and Stay Human perform on the Acura Stage.

Participants rush into the Gentilly entrance of Jazz Fest on Saturday, April 29th. I achieved this effect by using a 4 stop neutral density filter which allowed me to choose a longer shutter speed but not overexpose the images. I used a tripod as well.

Participants rush into the Gentilly entrance of Jazz Fest on Saturday, April 29th. I achieved this effect by using a 4 stop neutral density filter which allowed me to choose a longer shutter speed but not overexpose the images. I used a tripod as well.

MUSIC BOX PORTRAITS: An ongoing Story

Take a short break from Jazz Fest and enjoy some Portraits from the Music Box. I have been documenting every artist that has been featured at the New Orleans Airlift's new home in the 9th Ward. Each group that comes through, I coordinate with them to create unique portraits which feature the amazing artistry of Music Box Village and the personalities of the musicians. The goal is to create a unique document of the special collaborations of music, sculpture, and moments.

Tiff Lamson of GIVERS performs with Mike Dillon's New Orleans Punk Rock Percussion Consortium (MDsNOPRPC) at The New Orleans Airlift's Music Box Village.

Tiff Lamson of GIVERS performs with Mike Dillon's New Orleans Punk Rock Percussion Consortium (MDsNOPRPC) at The New Orleans Airlift's Music Box Village.

Band leader MIke Dillon directs and plays w/ the NOPRPC at The Music Box

Band leader MIke Dillon directs and plays w/ the NOPRPC at The Music Box

Mark Southerland at The Music Box playing the telephone...yes, it plays.

Mark Southerland at The Music Box playing the telephone...yes, it plays.

Clint Maedgen sings as Mike D shows his famous evil face on vibes...

Clint Maedgen sings as Mike D shows his famous evil face on vibes...

Behold: The musicians of Mike Dillon's New Orleans Punk Rock Percussion Consortium: Tiff Lamson, Brian Haas, Simon Berz, Paul Thibodeaux, Mark Southerland, Mike Dillon, Andre Bohren, Clint Maedgen, Steven Montalvo, Otto Schrang and much much more!

 

Dustan Louque's DUB DOWN BABYLON featuring Nels Cline

The Dub Down Babylon musicians at the Music Box

The Dub Down Babylon musicians at the Music Box

Dustan is an old friend, and when asked if he could do a portrait with a gas mask, i said yes before he finished his sentence!

Dustan is an old friend, and when asked if he could do a portrait with a gas mask, i said yes before he finished his sentence!

I had never met or photographed Nels Cline of Wilco, and it was an honor to meet and shoot this gentle soul!

I had never met or photographed Nels Cline of Wilco, and it was an honor to meet and shoot this gentle soul!

I have enjoyed Leyla McCalla's voice and music for so long, thank you AGAIN to the Music Box for bringing this portrait of a wonderful human together...

I have enjoyed Leyla McCalla's voice and music for so long, thank you AGAIN to the Music Box for bringing this portrait of a wonderful human together...

Blato Zlato, Margaret Hebert, Rob Cambre, Eric Heigle, Josh Werner, and Simon Berz round out the Dub Down Babylon set!

seth Walker Recording Session feat: John Medeski, Johnny Vidacovich and Myles Weeks at The music Shed Studios!

Engineer and producer Ben Lorio with John Medeski, Myles Weeks, Seth Walker and Johnny Vidacovich

Engineer and producer Ben Lorio with John Medeski, Myles Weeks, Seth Walker and Johnny Vidacovich

Seth Walker and John Medeski

Seth Walker and John Medeski

Johnny Vidacovich and Seth Walker

Johnny Vidacovich and Seth Walker

John Medeski - I had never photographed Mr. Medeski outside of a live show setting, and this was a truly unique moment to watch this master at work!

John Medeski - I had never photographed Mr. Medeski outside of a live show setting, and this was a truly unique moment to watch this master at work!

Watching another master at work - Mr. Johnny Vidacovich. Here Seth and Myles listen as Johnny explains the difference between horizontal and vertical rhythm. Yes, we went there.

Watching another master at work - Mr. Johnny Vidacovich. Here Seth and Myles listen as Johnny explains the difference between horizontal and vertical rhythm. Yes, we went there.

Myles Weeks

Myles Weeks

Back to Jazz Fest! Images from Friday, May 5th

FINISHED!

FINISHED!

Musician Jason Marsalis sits out on stage right during a solo by his keyboard player at the Jazz Tent.

Musician Jason Marsalis sits out on stage right during a solo by his keyboard player at the Jazz Tent.

Dancers do their thing, all day long, at the Fais Do Do stage at Jazz Fest. 

Dancers do their thing, all day long, at the Fais Do Do stage at Jazz Fest. 

Musicians Tiffany Lamson and Kelli Jones-Savoy step out at the Fais Do Do stage for some Cajun and Zydeco good times.

Musicians Tiffany Lamson and Kelli Jones-Savoy step out at the Fais Do Do stage for some Cajun and Zydeco good times.

Musician Jon Gross post show at Economy Hall!

Musician Jon Gross post show at Economy Hall!

Nathan Williams of Nathan and the Zydeco Cha Chas GET DOWN all the way down at the Fais Do Do stage!

Nathan Williams of Nathan and the Zydeco Cha Chas GET DOWN all the way down at the Fais Do Do stage!

New Generation Brass Band with Lady and Men Rollers and Scene Boosters SAPC

New Generation Brass Band with Lady and Men Rollers and Scene Boosters SAPC

New Generation Brass Band with Lady and Men Rollers and Scene Boosters SAPC

New Generation Brass Band with Lady and Men Rollers and Scene Boosters SAPC

The Original Big 7 Social Aid and Pleasure Club at Jazz Fest 2017

The Original Big 7 Social Aid and Pleasure Club at Jazz Fest 2017

The Original Big 7 Social Aid and Pleasure Club at Jazz Fest 2017

The Original Big 7 Social Aid and Pleasure Club at Jazz Fest 2017

Trumpet and Keyboard player Michael Girardot performs over a sea of people at the Acura Stage of Jazz Fest 2017

Trumpet and Keyboard player Michael Girardot performs over a sea of people at the Acura Stage of Jazz Fest 2017

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Trap and net maker Kernis Huval from Sunset, LA

Trap and net maker Kernis Huval from Sunset, LA

Big Chief Juan Pardo and Big Queen Anndrea Y. Pardo of the Golden Comanches march on Jazz Fest

Big Chief Juan Pardo and Big Queen Anndrea Y. Pardo of the Golden Comanches march on Jazz Fest

"Build Your Brand" Content Creation, SEO Marketing, and Finding Your Philosophy as an Entrepreneur by Zack Smith

Thank you to the "Grow St. Bernard" class at the St. Bernard Economic Development Foundations series. I enjoyed talking about "Build Your Brand" using high quality content and SEO marketing! PHOTO: SBEDF/Grow St. Bernard

Thank you to the "Grow St. Bernard" class at the St. Bernard Economic Development Foundations series. I enjoyed talking about "Build Your Brand" using high quality content and SEO marketing! PHOTO: SBEDF/Grow St. Bernard

I was recently honored with the opportunity to talk to a wonderful group of St. Bernard Parish business owners and entrepreneurs as part of the Grow St. Bernard initiative. 

Grow St. Bernard, a new seminar series, is from the St. Bernard Economic Development Foundation and the St. Bernard Chamber, and it offers professional insight on a variety of topics important to emerging and growing businesses.  The educational series encourages business owners and professionals to turn information into action; and participants will benefit from learning and sharing with the cohort of small businesses.  The 2017 series includes presentations, panels, and workshops from notable guest speakers on everything from business planning to marketing and beyond. 

I was so happy when they asked me to present on "Build Your Brand" and talk about the ways I have incorporated my brand and marketing philosophy into how I use social media and my website to drive traffic and generate leads and followers.

Did you know St. Bernard Parish is home to one of the highest percentage of locally owned businesses in the Greater New Orleans region? Another reason why I love living in Louisiana! Grow St. Bernard is an effort developed to provide business owners and professionals with the practical skills necessary to grow their company with limited resources and staffing.  Participants who complete the program will gain valuable knowledge of current trends and best practices for operating a business successfully.  Participation is open to all individuals regardless of location or occupation.  Love this, and I loved every minute of talking with business owners about why quality content is essential in promoting and marketing their businesses brand, products, and services.

If you or your business would like One on One Consulting, Visual Content Strategy Development, or specific Photographic needs - CLICK HERE!

The May 2nd group from Grow St. Bernard! PHOTO SBDEF/Grow St. Bernard

The May 2nd group from Grow St. Bernard! PHOTO SBDEF/Grow St. Bernard

New Orleans Photography Moments: Learning how to "see" like the camera sometimes means to close your eyes by Zack Smith

Zack photographing Delfeayo Marsalis in 2017. Come behind the scenes of focal length and learn to see like the camera! 

Zack photographing Delfeayo Marsalis in 2017. Come behind the scenes of focal length and learn to see like the camera! 

Rob your eyes from their sense of sight and gift your ears the color of sound. Close your eyes anywhere in New Orleans to hear the sounds of history, joy, sorrow and struggle. It's like a song that continues to be written as you walk the streets listening for the next verse in the city's sweet ballad.

Hear the song, see the shadows, feel the light from the sun.

Walk with a 50 and zoom on the run...

As photographers we need to be in the moment sometimes to really feel when a photograph needs to be made. We are makers, we are doers, and we are definitely not takers. In order to truly KNOW what the camera sees we need to OWN our Focal Length. 

NOTE: I have blogged about focal length and the Zen of it a few times, you can read and see more about how I explore the world with a fixed gaze. Click on any post to read in a new window. But please continue to read on.

"Finding Inspiration with a Prime" Dec 2015

 "85mm Walking with a Prime" -

"French Quarter Prime Walk" (JULY2016)  

Image of trumpeter in New Orleans shot on a fixed 50mm lens at an aperture of 1.2. ©2017 Zack Smith Photography. CLIENT: Mark Lawrence Johnson

Think of your specific focal length as a new pair of prescription glasses. It takes some time to get used to the perspective...

I would like to introduce the photographs used in this uniquely New Orleans gallery to show you how I see with a lens. I try to create the new visual reality while telling my client's story. I recently had a wonderfully busy week photographing musician Delfeayo Marsalis, trumpeter Mark Lawrence Johnson, Dirty Coast tshirts, and more. I'd like to use the photographs I took "on the side" to explain my relationship with focal length and learning to see like the camera. 

Choosing which lens to use on your subject also means to dictate how your background will relate.

I feel I am able to tell the story of someone, or some business, as I relate their visual needs to the way the story unfolds in front of a particular focal length. For instance, photographing an image of a tee shirt really close up is very important to my client but do I want to photograph it with a wide angle lens (like 20mm, 24mm) to widen my perspective angle and distort the image? Photographing with a wider angle lens at a close up subject will distort the subject, but it will also separate it from the background which could be appealing. On the other hand I could photograph that shirt with a longer focal length (120mm to 200mm) to compress the background and give the effect of shallow depth of field at most any aperture combination. The further the background is from my subject, the more soft and diffused the bokeh will be. 

Mark Johnson photographed on the Mississippi River in New Orleans with a 100mm focal length at 2.8 aperture. ©2017 Zack Smith Photography

Dirty Coast Press photoshoot (photo boil?) where I used 100mm at 2.8 aperture to bring in the background and frame my subjects. ©2017 Zack Smith Photography

Dirty Coast Press photoshoot (photo boil?) where I used 100mm at 2.8 aperture to bring in the background and frame my subjects. ©2017 Zack Smith Photography

A longer lens will bring the background in...

Whatever funny saying or trick to help you remember what focal length will do to help you craft your composition, figure it out! One that I like to use is "Longer Lens brings the Background In". This little saying will remind you to use your longer focal lengths like 100mm and above to bring the background closer. Bringing the background closer to your subject will give a more important stature to the background, allowing a closer relationship with subject and giving it more meaning. Using a wider angle lens will do the exact opposite.

When I chose a 24mm lens at 2.8 aperture for this shot, my idea was to have the menu frame his head and be out of focus. So i chose 24mm and had my subject get in position. Sometimes you have to work for the shot! ©2017 Zack Smith Photography

When I chose a 24mm lens at 2.8 aperture for this shot, my idea was to have the menu frame his head and be out of focus. So i chose 24mm and had my subject get in position. Sometimes you have to work for the shot! ©2017 Zack Smith Photography

My Photography Workshops help you Get a Philosophy...


Since I have been teaching photography in New Orleans (c. 2002) I have always taught that you must have a subject, the subject must have a story, and the subject will help you set the settings. You will never be able to choose which focal length to use properly when you don't know how the image will tell the story of the subject. As you can see in the photographs above, background has SO MUCH to do with the story of the subject. In any one of Zack Smith Photography Workshops, you will learn the tools and workflow necessary to help you make the decisions on what focal length to use when, where, and why! 

Stay in touch!

Zack

 

Natural Light Portrait Video Tutorial and Lightroom Edits with Zack Smith in New Orleans! by Zack Smith

Watch this Video for my Natural Light Window Portrait Tutorial and see the final edits!

Watch this Video for my Natural Light Window Portrait Tutorial and see the final edits!

How to Photograph Portraits using Natural Window Light! Watch as I set up and explain an easy portrait scenario using the natural light at the TASC Performance New Orleans store on Magazine Street! I have to thank my friend Ava for modeling, photographer Sarrah Danziger (www.sarrahdanziger.com) for the LIVE shoot, and Amanda, Seth, and Regan for the help at TASC!

Using a store window to shoot natural light portraits is easy, fun, and you can do it too!

As I have always said - "let the subject set the settings" and the rest will follow. In this 15 minute photography video tutorial I show you the nuts and bolts and basic settings to help you get your best natural light portraits yet. From putting the lens on the camera body to the final Lightroom edits, watch the video above and then see the edits below! No secrets here! Watch as I show you in real time how to quickly switch back and forth from shallow depth of field to extended depth of field to get two types of backgrounds and change your perspective!

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Stop the Madness! So will your new Digital Camera instantly make you a professional? Nope. by Zack Smith

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How To Tuesday asks the tough questions photographers face every day in an easy to read way!

I have been teaching beginner photography to beginners and mentoring professional photographers for many years in the New Orleans area. From time to time I am contacted by photographers from around the country who are on vacation in the city and want a customized mentorship for a few hours while their family hits a tourist trap. I have taught and mentored photographers in the Gulf Coast region since the early 2000's and am reminded of the many insights I've gained from these years of perspective.

plus ca change plus ca la meme chose....

New cameras and new technology come and go, but the CORE principles of great photography remain true.

When I first began this journey of educating photographers, I was teaching film photographers how to load film, shoot night photography, and master their concert photography skills in low light. From the old Nikon n90s to the newest Canon 5D Mark IV I always return to the basics when teaching people how to get the best photographs - KNOW YOUR TOOLS and GET A PHILOSOPHY! The cameras that are coming out now have so many added features that may help us fine tune our camera settings to fit our specialized needs, but in the end we still rely heavily on finding the comfort zone of creativity in mastering Focal Length, Aperture, Shutter speed and ISO. 

I recently purchased a new Canon 5D Mark IV, and I love it but how will it make me a better photographer?

Just by dropping some well saved monies to buy the new-ish Canon should that make my images that much better than the Mark 3? Yes, and no. As I still need to rely on my master of light, focal length, and depth - there are some newly added features that advance my workflow as a professional. But does this camera make me better? I feel it gives me a deeper feeling of confidence with more focus points to choose from, and I feel that it allows me to toggle through menu options easier with the touch screen. Yes, all that is good but it's not going to make me a better photographer.

The reason I write this blog post is that I have been seeing more and more the bubbling up resentment of long time professional photographers towards the less knowledgable image creators. This sentiment, I feel, has popped up in the recent years due to the increase in quality of DSLR's and the downtick in prices. Add in the power of marketing and social media, and the once iPhone shooter can spend 3K on new camera gear and immediately start putting out some impressive work in a short amount of time. (and I say impressive by the sheer volume, not astounding quality). Just because one purchases a nice camera, doesn't make them a pro and just because that newbie is taking on clients, shouldn't mean that the professionals jobs are at stake. Or does it?

In my almost 20 years of taking on photographic clients, I have seen a few things remain constant:

+ The ability for a creative visual professional to solve a clients visual problems begins and ends with the consistency to produce high quality work in all facets and eras of their careers.

+ Through economic recession, hurricanes, and life downturns the professional photographer maintains their equipment insurance, invests in their business, creates marketing and business plans that reflect their markets ability to support them. They use their master of Focal Length, Aperture, and Shutter speed and ISO to tell the compelling stories in ways that are unique to them, and their client. 

+ Trends come and go and the creators never stop yearning for more knowledge of them themselves, the competition, and their art. Look inward, look ahead, never look back.

Spring has Sprung! New Gear New Techniques: How to Shoot Fill Flash Portraits into the Sun. by Zack Smith

How did I make this photograph you ask? Get inspired by Louisiana, befriend a tree, and wait for the fog....

ISO 100, 1/125 at f1.6 with Variable Neutral Density filter at 8 stops on my 35mm on Canon MarkIV, self timer. Canon 580EX off camera flash at 1/1 (full power) Orange Gel.

ISO 100, 1/125 at f1.6 with Variable Neutral Density filter at 8 stops on my 35mm on Canon MarkIV, self timer. Canon 580EX off camera flash at 1/1 (full power) Orange Gel.

What gets you off your couch? What motivates you to pick up your camera and find the next great photograph in New Orleans, Lafayette, Baton Rouge or Bunkie? For me, nothing gets me out of the office like a new lens, flash, or gadget to help tell the story in a different way. As you know I have been photographing that amazing oak tree at the Chalmette National Historic Battlefield for almost over a year. You can see some of my galleries on this blog (CLICK for one here!) where I have photographed this tree at sunrise, sunset, in the fog, and in an impending rain deluge! I have awoken from deep couch sleep to peer out of my window and see the sun 20º above the horizon knowing that tree was perfectly backlit. I'd race out the house with my 17-40mm f4 lens and get what I could. I enjoyed posting my photo galleries and explorations in light, but I needed some new inspiration: NEW GEAR!

Learning my new DSLR and flash was going to be on the fly and inspired by Louisiana

I don't have alot of time these days to be with that tree, so I have to photograph it when the moment hits. Usually the perfect combination of fog and sunrise will get me out the house, but with my recent acquisition of some new lenses have me very excited to see my tree in a very different way. When I shoot music festivals in Louisiana there are a few lenses I like to bring with me: a wide angle for getting those large establishing shots, my telephoto for when I am shooting from the photo pit at a far away stage, and a few primes for nice creative depth of field. You can see some of my recent music festival photographs at my Voodoo Fest Gallery and French Quarter Fest galleries.

Remember our lenses are our eyes and how we see the world through our camera

I have been playing around with the new 35mm 1.4 L lens and loving it. I have been working around with my 8 Stop Variable Neutral Density filter, shooting at 1.4 with my Canon 580EX speed lights. The only way that I can photograph into the sun AND use my flashes is to knock down the light that is entering my lens. As you know, our cameras have a sync speed that must be met so the light from our flash can be exposed on the sensor while not being interrupted by the camera's shutter. Most cameras sync speeds are at 1/200, 1/180 or around that speed. When you set your shutter speed FASTER than that (1/320 or 1/500 for example) the shutter is moving too fast across the sensor plane and your flash cannot get through, thus leaving you with a black bar across the image:

Let's talk about how I got the photograph at the header of this post - photographing shallow depth of field portraits using studio flash.

I recently purchased the Pocket Wizard TTL Wireless Radio 5 Pack for Canon, allowing me to control the output of my off camera Canon speedlights from my camera. This allows me to place my flash near my subject, then adjust the power of the flash from my camera thus helping me work faster and smarter!

I setup my 580EX at full power 1/1 in manual mode and put an orange gel taped to the front of it. I set a prefocus on the bench with my lens on Auto Focus, then set it back to Manual Focus. This is very important because if we tap the shutter again, the camera might want to focus on something else and all our hard work is for naught as our subject will be soft! Taking a test shot, I then zoomed into the shot to see if I was in focus. We need to remember that what we see on our LCD screen always looks great, especially when our focal point at f1.6 is only about 6 inches! We really have to get into the habit of zooming into our photographs so we learn how to see the actual focus. This is a great photo-habit to have!

After I took a few test shots with the bench, I was able to sit down (on the wet morning dew bench of course) and get in the shot. I forgot to mention that I was using my tripod for this shot, but at this point I assumed you knew that! I wanted this shot to be iconic in a different way as I have always shot the tree and very seldom am I in the shot. Thinking about the new gear that i just acquired I wanted to see if I could put all the pieces together and make one striking Louisiana inspired self portrait. Thanks for reading, and get out there...SHOOT FOR THE WALL!

Remember its FESTIVAL TIME IN NEW ORLEANS! Spots are open for my French Quarter Fest Photography Workshop so CLICK HERE to sign up now!

EXCLUSIVE LIGHTROOM CONFESSIONAL "I was lost and now am found" One of Zack Smith's stock images breaks it's silence! by Zack Smith

I have seen the light and in it's a room. It's Lightroom....

I have seen the light and in it's a room. It's Lightroom....

I never knew life could be so easy, I never knew life could be so grand..Now that I am setup with Lightroom my archives are in Command!

Ya like that? I just wrote that. Inspired by the last 365 days of using Lightroom to manage my archives, tag and star my favorite photos, and really rock my Global Edit WORLD I am a new man. What finally brought me to bite the bullet and totally throw my workflow into the waiting bosom of Lightroom was a day last year that I will never, ever forget...

I received a call from a potential client looking for Louisiana stock imagery for a limited use agreement. The images needed contained no visible people, private residences or business store fronts. It was a dream stock job from heaven! The only catch was that the client needed to see gallery of Louisiana stock images and New Orleans cultural galleries by the end of day. Sure, I thought, I'll just go through my Louisiana Stock hard drive and find what they needed. But lo and behold all of my New Orleans and Louisiana images were in separate folders and in multiple drives. The only way to find specific themed images was to open each folder, inspect the images and drag them to a new destination folder. I had no time for that!

It was time to learn Lightroom for myself...

It was then that I needed to get my workflow "act" together. I was shooting more client work than ever from music festivals, corporate head shots, conferences, and events - I needed a better way to archive, keyword, and edit my files in a way i could find them fast and easy! Welcome in my buddy and yours, David Marx. (www.davidmarx.com)

David and I attended the Rocky Mountain School of Photography during the same summer of 2000 and became fast friends. Our love of PHISH, slide film, and music set us on a path to friendship going on 17 years strong. Not only has Dave helped me improve my workflow management, he has helped me with my Lightroom techniques and archiving prowess. Thanks Dave, I owe you alot!

I began using Lightroom to SAVE my workflow, now it's a part of my lifeflow...now teaching it to beginners who were right where I was!

For the past 15 years I have taught what I know. Concert, Portrait, Long Exposure, all types of photography that I do..i teach. That's why I thought it was a no-brainer to begin teaching Lightroom in New Orleans. I taught my first class (15 people) in the Summer of 2016 and begin my second one this Saturday, March 18th where I will unleash tons of new helpful tips, presets, and editing techniques.  For me, giving it away is the ultimate treasure and balance to receiving so many rich insights from others. 

I teach Lightroom with the same philosophy I have had for photography since day 1: Shoot for the Wall! I teach and preach non-destructive editing, fine tuning your images for print, and using Photoshop as a file, not a chainsaw. If we can shoot RAW and get what we need with our initial exposure, then there are only a few edits we need to do in Lightroom to get our images print ready. 

What are you waiting for? Get a Philosophy! Learn Lightroom with me!!! SIGN UP HERE~!

 

Mardi Gras: A Feast for the Senses for it is the Playground of Creatives... by Zack Smith

Winners...my favorite costumes were these two "House Ornament" lions...

Winners...my favorite costumes were these two "House Ornament" lions...

Mardi Gras 2017 Photo Gallery: #Colourgasm


Photographs really do tell a story don't they? One photograph can say so many different things to many people, and a series of images may tell one singular story so well, that we all agree. I hope you take a second to look at these images and agree with me -

Mardi Gras is a feast for the senses because it is the playground of the creatives...

If you just took a second to look around you, take it all in, you realized that New Orleans was one heartbeat, one song, one love on Mardi Gras day. It was something I had sorely missed after 3 years not participating in the revelry. Yes, I had put together some great marching bands for Chewbacchus and Krewe Du Vieux but that was more like creative WORK rather than creative PLAY. And I was due for some play. 

Being able to create a costume with my family meant the world to me, as this was our daughter Vega's 1st Mardi Gras day (definitely not her 1st parade...she's a pro). My wife and her dressed as slick Owl's and I the moss laden tree. At the last minute I abandoned the costume for the easy of use carrying the "dad bag" full of baby needs and wants, and my camera. In year's past partying took precedent over bringing out my good working cameras, but today was different and it had to be documented. 

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ALL MARDI GRAS NEW ORLEANS PHOTOGRAPHS HERE ©ZACK SMITH...SO ENJOY HERE! 

Pls Share! Feel free to link this page post!!

 

How to Photograph Aliens and Yoda's in Low Light While Marching: A Practical New Orleans Tutorial by Zack Smith

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In my 15 years teaching photography I have been asked alot of questions, and most beginning photographers want to learn the basics: how to shoot manual exposure, how to get that blurry background, and "how do I see like my camera sees?". But once a year around Mardi Gras in New Orleans photographers want to know how to photograph some of the most difficult types of subject yet: moving objects in low light. In order to best educate those that want to know how to photograph low light moving objects, I try to bring my photography workshop participants on a journey through time and space to a land of Aliens, Chewbaccas, Yoda's, and fantastic floats in the Bywater. You guessed it: The International Krewe of Chewbaccus Parade.

Each year we are over the moon interstellar-ly excited that the IKOC lets us peer into their amazing world of Wookies, spaceships, and Star Wars revelry. The costumes and floats in this parade are truly one of a kind and "Only in New Orleans". Each year this workshop is a joy to photograph and be a part of something memorable.

I have been photographing Mardi Gras Parades in New Orleans since 2000 and has marched in more parades than I cares to remember (or can). For this parade we begin at the secret headquarters of the IKOC to document over 100 krewes and sub-krewes as they prepare themselves and their floats for the exciting route. We follow the Krewe as they wind through the crowd filled streets of the city, finding the perfect vantage points to tell the best story of the parade and our great city!

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How to photograph a Mardi Gras parade? First; focus on what you know, and go from there.

My suggestion to anyone wanting to get better at photographing Mardi Gras parades, or any marching, dancing, or moving entity, is to first shoot what you know. As a portrait photographer I usually see the faces and emotion before I see the big picture landscape scenes. I will walk up to people and ask if I can photograph them, and either capture a portrait or just a candid of them soon after. This way I can get comfortable approaching single people and then on to larger groups. 

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Photograph wide open in the waning day hours, then increase your ISO when the night falls...

When the sun sets, usually fast, on a parade that usually means you are not too far off from beginning your march. If you are marching with the parade, like we were for the Chewbaccus workshop, you can get accustomed to the speed of the crew and get your settings right. After the twilight hour has settled in, you notice that the artificial light has taken over as your dominant light source (or key light) for the rest of the parade. Whereas earlier you had the sunlight to light your portraits, now you have random, blinking, and sometimes glowing light sources. Difficult, yes. Impossible, never. Says Yoda.

Photograph wide open in the waning day hours, then increase your ISO when the night falls...  When the sun set, usually fast, on a parade that usually means you are not too far off from beginning your march. If you are marching with the parade, like we were for the Chewbaccus workshop, you can get accustomed to the speed of the crew and get your settings right. After the twilight hour has settled in, you notice that the artificial light has taken over as your dominant light source (or key light) for the rest of the parade. Whereas earlier you had the sunlight to light your portraits, now you have random, blinking, and sometimes glowing light sources. Difficult, yes. Impossible, never. Says Yoda.

Some Tips for Photographing in Low Light:

First of all  you have to assume that all rules apply when trying to capture the sharpest photographs in low light:

1. You and your camera Must be Stable - taking your time to compose each shot and standing still at each exposure will ensure that you are not moving and making your images even softer by adding blur! Stay Still!

2. Turn ON Vibration Reduction and Image Stabilizer - most newer lenses and zoom lenses come equipped with VR/IR to help stabilize the lens when you are moving ever so slightly. This feature does NOT stabilize or help freeze the subject you are shooting. Remember that! 

3. Move at the Speed of your Subject - I find that if you are shooting at shutter speeds of 1/30 - 1/4 it helps if you are moving at the speed of your subject. This will help keep your subject sharp but blur the background which can result in some crazy cool movement!

Enjoy this Gallery from Chewbacchus 2017! SHARE this post with friends in the Krewe!

Was it the Instagram takeover that resulted in a blockbuster NBA trade deal? Or not? by Zack Smith

Baton Rouge model David Dunn Jr. (FiftyTwo45 Agency) wears some Sacramento Kings gear in New Orleans for my NBA All Stars weekend Instagram takeover.

Baton Rouge model David Dunn Jr. (FiftyTwo45 Agency) wears some Sacramento Kings gear in New Orleans for my NBA All Stars weekend Instagram takeover.

In a  New Orleans NBA All-Star game that wheeled and dealed players, local Instagrammers dealed the Kings some gems

Over this last 2017 NBA All Star weekend, which was held in New Orleans, I had the honor of taking over the Sacramento Kings Instagram account to showcase some NOLA spots for their followers. I had never been asked to do something like this, and I was honored. I met up with their digital team at the Westin Hotel upon their arrival on Friday, grabbed some Demarcus Cousins jerseys, and then proceeded to walk the French Quarter. I had with me one of my favorite models to work with ( and all around great guy) David Dunn Jr, as well as his buddy Nick. 

I thought it very smart that the Kings' Digital Team did some research and reached out to collaborate with some local photographers - it's no wonder why their digital team is one of the top creatives in the NBA. The Kings were also the first NBA team to use Facebook LIVE. Smart dudes....

Nick and David model some Kings gear in front of the Sheraton's huge NBA wrap on Canal St.

Nick and David model some Kings gear in front of the Sheraton's huge NBA wrap on Canal St.

We walked around to Canal St. to photograph in front of the Sheraton's NBA All Star wrap, then ventured into the front gates of Bourbon St. The mood immediately changed, the smells became thick, the language fierce...yeah we were in for a ride.

My job this weekend was to get people wearing Demarcus Cousin's All Star gear around some New Orleans spots in trade for posting and links on their account. The Kings have 568K followers, so I thought this could be a great experience and might get me some New Orleans followers that live in CA...reminiscent of their home. 

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We had a blast. I even brought the shirts to the Krewe of Chewbacchus Parade where I was teaching a Mardi Gras photography workshop. I ran into a few people who were from Sacramento and got to throw the jersey on them for a few photographs.

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But the craziest most random thing that happened wasn't the Jedi Knights and Yoda's that surrounded the Kings gear. It was that in the late Sunday hours of the All-Star game, Demarcus Cousins was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans! In a deal that seemed to be a "make or break" situation for Del Demps and the organization, they waged all their bets including a direct trade for Buddy Hield (damn), Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway and two draft picks. So you're saying I photographed the last Cousin's All Star jersey as a King in the city of his new team? I am sure there's a better way to say that...so here's some more photographs!

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All Images ©Zack Smith Photography and it is against the law to extract these these images for personal or commercial use. It ain't cool either.

New Orleans can be an improvisation both musically and photographically... by Zack Smith

Simon Lott AKA Context Killer, HIP FEST 2014 - ©Zack Smith Photography

Simon Lott AKA Context Killer, HIP FEST 2014 - ©Zack Smith Photography

I have posted these images from HIP FEST in 2014, but I thought it was a good opportunity to relive them again. I was recently contacted by New Orleans musician/drummer/improviser/composer Marcello Bennetti to work on an image I shot of him for his upcoming record. The image in question ( i won't show it here...) was from a series of backstage portraits I made at HIP FEST at the Blue Nile, where over two nights various sets of improvised music was played by shuffling trio's and quartets.

My backstage portrait setup was visual improvisation...

Local and out of town improvisors like Aurora Nealand, Brad Walker, and Paul Thibodeaux (REDRAWBLACK), Simon Lott, and organizer Jeff Albert, played out there and right on music downstairs at the club. Upstairs I wanted to do my own improv with lights. I ended up bringing three Paul C. Buff Alien Bee strobes only and bounced a red gel strobe on the background, and fired off two 30º gridded strobes perpendicular to my subject's faces. I wanted to create harsh side lighting, with a dark center strip on their face. Here are my results photographing Cliff Hines, Rob Mazurek, Nathan Lambertson, Gianluca Petrella, Jeff Albert, Simon Lott, Johnny Vidacovich, and REDRAWBLACK (Nealand, Walker, Thibodeaux)

Check out some more live photography from that event at their website - http://noise-nola.org/category/hip-fest-2014/

PRODUCT REVIEW: VLOG reviews Sleeklens.com Lightroom Presets and Adjustment Brushes! by Zack Smith

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I was recently contacted by the marketing folks over at Sleeklens.com to see if I wanted to try out some of their Lightroom presets and brushes. I have to be honest with you, before Jane contacted me, I had only downloaded and used one Lightroom preset and was very green about the brushes presets. In my business as a freelance photographer in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, I am constantly editing jobs that are VERY different in shooting style, thus are different in the way I edit and deliver. 

I Photograph so that I can edit like my clients see...

I always want my deliverables to have a certain "realness" about them. I want my clients to feel that they saw that same thing I did, but in the end there's a certain magic about it. I edit sparingly, and try not to let the "hand of photographer" show through my edits. So when I was downloading Sleeklens brush presets, I was skeptical. But real soon after playing around with each adjustment brush that I dialed in, I realized that I could easily dial back, or push further the effect in a way that was creative and comforting. I recently worked on a photograph for New Orleans drummer and improvisator Marcello Bennetti where I used a few Sleeklens presets and brushes. Lucky for you, I recorded that workflow! Enjoy this VLOG of my Lightroom workflow of a portrait of Marcello using a few Sleeklens presets! And by all means...check out their great BLOG at https://sleeklens.com/photography-blog/

The Sleeklens bundle comes as the ultimate solution for anyone looking to edit images in Lightroom and caters for absolutely anything you need for your work. Whether you are editing Portraits, Landscapes, wedding photos, HDR or anything else, the Lightroom Collection consists of everything necessary for all photography styles. The collection is a complete compilation of all of their Lightroom presets and brushes thus giving you massive tools at a great price. As such, you can achieve more with the complete collection without spending much money in the process. 

Feb 2nd - "The Frame: A Louisiana Photography Podcast" presented by Louisiana cultural Vistas moderated by photographer Zack Smith. by Zack Smith

Alphonse DooWee Robair, Gang Flag Hard Head Hunters 2014 - Image by our first guest - photographer Pableaux Johnson.

Alphonse DooWee Robair, Gang Flag Hard Head Hunters 2014 - Image by our first guest - photographer Pableaux Johnson.

Finally, A Louisiana Photography Podcast!

I am honored to be interviewing a wonderful group of Louisiana photographers for the brand new bi-monthly series "The Frame: A Louisiana Photography Podcast"

Hosted by Louisiana Cultural Vistas magazine, these hourlong events will take place at the Louisiana Humanities Center in New Orleans. I will interview Louisiana photographers in one-hour conversations that preserve the important history and document vibrant contemporary work of Louisiana photographers.

The first episode will be taped live at the Louisiana Humanities Center, 938 Lafayette Street, February 2, 6pm, with guest Pableaux Johnson. The event is free and open to the public.

Please come be a part of our LIVE studio audience and mark this event as something you do every two months! I am really looking forward to asking Louisiana photographers the questions that don't get asked, talk about the photos in a way that only photographers can, and to get to the visual center of the image.

BE A PART OF THE LIVE TAPING - https://www.facebook.com/events/1871639233117509/