Zack Smith Interview: Coffee with Kevin of Coast Roast in New Orleans, LA by Zack Smith

I had the pleasure recently of sitting down with Kevin Pedeaux of Coast Roast Coffee to talk shop. I enjoy talking about my photographic journey with those that are following similar paths. Kevin was an avid photographer in New Orleans years ago, even so much as doing the weekend art markets around town and doing well. Here is the full interview from our talk in early September of 2016.

Sept 29th New Orleans Photo Alliance Portfolio Share Happy Hour with, yours truly! by Zack Smith

I am honored to have been asked by the New Orleans Photo Alliance to kick off their first Portfolio Share Happy Hour and Critique.

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from the Alliance....

"We’re taking our portfolio sharing events in a different direction this month. NOPA member and professional photographer Zack Smith will host this event for photographers wishing to take their work to the next level.

Participants will present a body of work and Zack will address specific questions and concerns then lead the group in discussion of the work. This Happy Hour is intended for emerging professionals and experienced amateurs to get open and honest feedback from an Alliance Member with many years in the fine art, commercial, and photography education business."

$25/members; $35/Gen. Public. Space is limited. CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP

But 1st...I have to say I have always been a sponge around other photographers...

Ever since I could remember picking up a camera, I was always asking questions about this SLR device I couldn't seem to get away from. When I first began taking pictures with a serious passion, back in the fall of 1997, I would gravitate towards anyone making images. In the restaurant I worked as a senior in college, I sought out the photographer whose beautiful black and white still life photographs were hanging in the bar and asked him: "can you teach me how you made that print?"

...and once you convert your only bathroom to a darkroom you're in deep

So after learning how to roll the film, process the film, mix chemicals and make a print - (whew!) I converted my bathroom into a darkroom and began experimenting. (AKA wasting money learning)

I assisted photographers for MAXIM, NIKE, NBA, commercials, movies and anything I could grab a light or a C-stand and be a sponge. My life changed forever when I was hired to work with the great portrait photographer Herman Leonard in New Orleans. As his studio and field assistant I did everything: loaded film, unloaded film, carried lights and set them up, learned about gels, grids, and how to roll cable. I learned how to be human, and listen, and still be creative behind the camera...

What I am getting at is that at this point in my careers after teaching for 12+ years and mentoring other photographers and creatives I STILL LEARN from looking at photographs and talking with photographers. I love looking at work and critiquing, challenging, and asking the hard questions of the artist to help them grow.

Hey You! Yes You. Want to be a great photographer? Get a philosophy. by Zack Smith

Do you like to look at photographs? Do you have a photographer whose work you look up to?

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Take a minute and think of your favorite photographer. It doesn't matter who this person is or what style of photography they do, their work only has to inspire you. I guarantee that when you find articles, interviews, or bio's about your favorite photographer the reason they got into photographer wasn't for the money. What was it for? When I first became attached to my first camera I was obsessed with Henri Cartier-Bresson. I couldn't get enough of his work. I would stare at his works like "Héyres France 1932" and read books on him until I could see like him or so I thought. I loved his mastery of exploring space and setting his compositions up in a way that begged for the interaction of life. I read veraciously - any book I could get on Robert Capa I would read it. His photographs were great, but his story interested me more. 

Why do photographers pick up the camera?

Why is it that a camera became the tool of your favorite photographer's mode of expression? Why not a paint brush or a computer or even a pencil? I am asking you to find this out because it will be these words and inspirations of your favorite photographers that will help guide you to yours.

In my 10 years of teaching photography to beginners, amateurs, and professionals I find that the photographer that shows the most drive and determination to learn are the ones guided by a force and fire that can't be taught. They have a reason to create. They have a purpose for their vision and they have a story to tell. You can say they found religion. You can say they found a meaning behind their reasons to pickup the camera. Whatever they found...you should too.

Why do you photograph? Is it the rush of "nailing the shot"? Is it the experiences before and after the 1/125 of a second shutter opening? If the camera is your tool, if photography is your canvas then it's time to figure out your WHY...

Spend some time in a new Environment

I often wish I had one purpose with the camera, but it was about 14 years ago I realized I wanted to share my knowledge instead of keeping it inside. When I was first learning photography I relied on the kindness of other photographers who let me into their busy lives to answer all of my really dumb questions. I realized fast that photography can be an all inclusive adventure, and the more we share about what we know can only propel us further on our path. I wanted to create a place where photographers go to learn how to tell their story and make great photographs. 

Photo tip's and tricks are fads, and fads fade like your uncle's washed out family photo. My goal has always been to help people learn their cameras, but I also want to help forge a photographic philosophy and help people understand the "why" of what you photograph and the "where" that photograph will go. 

I am very exited to get my Fall 2016 Photography Workshop Series underway. It's my most ambitious photography workshop calendar yet: 12 workshops in a unique collaborative partnership with Crescent Park, French Market Corporation, and 5 Press Gallery to bring the New Orleans photo community it's most comprehensive photography workshop offering ever. 

I hope you can check it out and take a course - CLICK HERE to find out more

 

The Louisiana Flood of 2016: How we can help those in the flooded communities of Louisiana by Zack Smith

Right now there are thousands of Louisiana residents without homes due to the epic flooding that took place over this last weekend. Recent numbers say over 40,000 homes were damaged. Many were not ready for the flooding and had to be rescued from rooftops or stranded on highways. The storm that passed through was slow and vigilant causing little alarm on it's approach but wreaked devastating havoc on Lafayette, Baton Rouge, Denham Springs and surrounding areas.

Many of my cousins and family members are going through the gutting process and about to start talking with FEMA and Red Cross...and it all brings me back to the aftermath of Katrina. I remember those times for the bad and I also remember it was the friends and family that helped each other to get back to a "new" normal.

Here is a post I made on Facebook about HOW TO PHOTOGRAPH YOUR LOSS in preparation for grant, loan, and assistant opportunities - please share!

Here are a few websites you can visit if you have the inclination to help those in need. Thank you - Zack

ONLINE DONATIONS

 Red Cross

  • Accepting: Donations via telephone. Call 1-800-REDCROSS or text LAFLOODS to 90999 to donate $10

• Companion Animal Alliance, Baton Rouge's city animal shelter

  • Needs: Foster homes to house pets temporarily, large bath towels, paper towels, water and food for volunteers and staff. Donations can be made online to assist with these needs by going to the organization's website,www.CAABR.org. 

• NOLA Pay It Forward

  • Accepting: Greater New Orleans Foundation collecting donations to aid neighboring parishes in early relief and rebuilding efforts. Access the site here. 

• United Way of Southeast Louisiana

  • Accepting: Donations online by going through the United Way of Southeast Louisiana's website. Checks can also be mailed to: United Way of Southeast Louisiana, ATTN: Flood Relief, 2515 Canal Street, New Orleans, LA 70119

• Denham Springs Animal Shelter, which was devastated by the floods

  • Accepting: Donations via a GoFundMe account, which PetCo is matching dollar-for-dollar up to $50,000. The shelter also has an Amazon Wish List. By making purchases on Amazon, needed items will be sent directly to the shelter. 

 Tangi Humane Society, which is privately run and was devastated by the floods

• Associated Professional Educators of Louisiana

  • Accepting: Donations, 100 percent of which will be turned over to teachers who have lost classroom materials in the floods. They can be made online through APEL's website. Teachers can also apply for the financial aid through the same link. 

• Assess the Need

  • Accepting: Donations for Livingston Parish schools, 15 of which flooded. Donations can be made online by going to Assess the Need's website. They can also be emailed to Assess the Need, PO Box 1802, Denham Springs, LA, 70727

St. Landry-Evangeline United Way
337-942-7815
www.uwsle.org
 
United Way of Acadiana
337-233-8302
www.unitedwayofacadiana.org
 
United Way of Iberia
337-364-0424
www.unitedwayofiberia.org
 
United Way of Southwest Louisiana
337-433-1088
www.unitedwayswla.org

Can photographers document as an observer but still stay connected? My experience as a street culture photographer in New Orleans, Louisiana by Zack Smith

Treme Brass Band, Baby Dolls, Grand Marshall. Add sax, trumpet, drums and all those parts make the whole.

Treme Brass Band, Baby Dolls, Grand Marshall. Add sax, trumpet, drums and all those parts make the whole.

As I sit here sifting through Lightroom tagging, keywording and editing the 9,206 images I made at this year's Satchmo Summerfest  I can't help but relive all of the amazing moments over the last few days. As festival, wedding, or conference photographers can attest, photographing these multifaceted events are intense when you are doing it and intense when it's over! During these events I am so focused trying to anticipate the magic moment when background and subject come together in a way that pleases both the client, and hopefully my own aesthetic. We can't forget why we are there - we got hired to be there and to bring our eye to the event and we must never ever forget that. 

It's hard to be in the moment and feel the music, when your first priority is observer and documentarian.

Can we really feel a part of a moment if we are always documenting it? I doubt it, but we do it.

Can we really feel a part of a moment if we are always documenting it? I doubt it, but we do it.

I mean, can we really honestly say we are part of the second line and feeling the music while we are documenting the action? I really thinks it's impossible. I can understand being lost in the moment and dancing in the streets from house to bar to house to bar with camera wailing wildly in the air only to pause to expose, compose, and capture. But is that really practical? Do you think you'd really get a high percentage of great shots? In my opinion I don't think so. If your duty as a photographer is to document for a purpose and have a true intention of "why" you are photographing and "what" you are documenting, then you must be an Focused Intentional Observer. While we are not a part of the action, we need to be dedicated to the action's flow and timing so that we move and breath like the action but are ready to detach, and compose.

Really, I can go on and philosophize about 2nd line photography in New Orleans, but I won't. I'll just see you on the streets..it's been a long time coming. Zack

 

 

 

New Orleans' Musical Magic Hour in Pictures - Only the Best from Satchmo Fest 2016 by Zack Smith

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I am always looking for the "magic" moment - when subject, background, composition and story come together in a way that sings of a depth way beyond first glance. I am always observing the moment when documenting a music festival in New Orleans, but I am always keeping a keen eye out for what may happen next, or what could happen if all goes right. Aside from my duties to my client to tell the story of their event, I am always trying to find the deeper layers to any moment and get "one for me". 

Every day at the Satchmo Fest 2016 had it's highlights and here I'll show you mine...

If you've followed this blog you've seen my favorites of each day. Here are the links again to Friday, and Saturday. Here in this blog post are some more photographs from each of those days plus my best from Sunday. I hope you enjoy this post and if you do -  please share this link to your friends, pages, and your blog!

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Images of Joy and Love: New Orleans lost two of it's favorite sons and yet we danced and sung as one. by Zack Smith

On Friday morning, New Orleans found out it lost two of it's favorite sons, but we raised a glass and sung as one when the day was done.

With so many icons of music, culture, art and life that live amongst us in New Orleans it's not uncommon to mourn the loss of a great artist during the celebrations of a music festival. With so many festivals (152 a year said Jeremy Cooker of the NOTMC) one is likely to raise a glass and second line at the same time families and friends mourn a loved ones passing. This weekend New Orleans and the world lost not one, but two of our treasured son's: world famous and locally loved clarinetist Pete Fountain, and gospel singer and iconic Tipitina's doorman Jo "Cool" Davis.

The music, the laughter, the camaraderie, it all came to pass today. We miss our beloved sons and we hold them on our heavy hearts, but we dance and sing as they would want us to. You could feel it and hear them in the dense summer heat. Clarinet sways, gospel croon - Pete and Jo were in the air and we were all there. Enjoy some of my photographs of joy and love from Day 2 at Satchmo Summerfest in New Orleans, LA.

Satchmo stalwart and all around good guy Yoshio Toyama kids around with Freddie Lonzo.

Satchmo stalwart and all around good guy Yoshio Toyama kids around with Freddie Lonzo.

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The Trumpet of Wendell Brunious, the finger of Freddie Lonzo. 

The Trumpet of Wendell Brunious, the finger of Freddie Lonzo. 

Jane Harvey Brown serenades the crowd with "La Vie en Rose" in french.

Jane Harvey Brown serenades the crowd with "La Vie en Rose" in french.

Benny Jones, leader, of the Treme Brass Band start out their Kid's 2nd Line from the Cabildo.

Benny Jones, leader, of the Treme Brass Band start out their Kid's 2nd Line from the Cabildo.

Long time stage manager Eric B and his new wife accept a wedding cake from Satchmo staff.

Long time stage manager Eric B and his new wife accept a wedding cake from Satchmo staff.

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Topsy Chapman and Solid Harmony take some time out to pose for a fan. (me)

Topsy Chapman and Solid Harmony take some time out to pose for a fan. (me)

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There's so much to do and see at Satchmo Fest, as seen by this crowd of onlookers.

There's so much to do and see at Satchmo Fest, as seen by this crowd of onlookers.

Juggling and playing a cowbell is how Charmaine Neville STARTS her set...not surprised here.

Juggling and playing a cowbell is how Charmaine Neville STARTS her set...not surprised here.

Every body deserves a break after a long day, this guy is still all smiles after all that heat...

Every body deserves a break after a long day, this guy is still all smiles after all that heat...

 

 

Satchmo Summerfest 2016. A new New Orleans home that fits just right in Jackson Square by Zack Smith

Even though I don't photograph nearly as much festivals as I used to, I always look forward to shooting the ones I do on a regular basis. Up until the last few years I was shooting pretty frequently, on staff at Jazz Fest, French Quarter Fest (see my best of 2016), and Satchmo Fest but also shooting portraits and live sets at Voodoo Music Experience, Chaz Fest and many other events around town. Since I peeled back on the festival photography to concentrate more on other photographic avenues, I really only get fired up for one festival...Satchmo Summerfest.

Satchmo Summer Fest has purpose, it has history, and it has the genius, kindness, and musical guidance of one visionary that is forever linked to New Orleans: Louis Armstrong.

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The first day of photographing a festival for me now is all about getting my "fest eyes and legs"

Many New Orleans photographers I know in the music industry continue to shoot music festivals year-round like Lollapalooza, Hangout Fest, Bonnaroo, ACL, and others. I don't envy them though, it's really hard work, but I do wish I didn't hurt so much after Day 1 of a fest! The hustle routine of shooting a festival is sometimes a challenge doing all that walking for ten hours straight, pounding waters, and eating and walking.

Satchmo Fest photography for me is more than just capturing the music, it's about my clients needs on a promotion, sponsorship, and operational level.

Aside from photographing the musicians at Satchmo Fest I also have duties to capture the operations layout (placements of stages, barricades, trash cans, food booths, etc) sponsorships (sponsor signs, banners, and VIP's), crowd flow, and a multitude of various duties that have nothing to do with a guitar solo or brass band second line. But who wants to look at that stuff anyway? Enjoy some of my favorites from Day 1 and be on the lookout for the full Satchmo Fest 2016 Photo Gallery on Monday, August 8th right here on the blog!

The official "front door" of Satchmo Fest

The official "front door" of Satchmo Fest

Scarlett puts the finishing touches on Louis Armstrong's big litup birthday cake

Scarlett puts the finishing touches on Louis Armstrong's big litup birthday cake

I ate at Palmer's food booth 3 times on Friday...their Jerk Chicken combo is FINE!

I ate at Palmer's food booth 3 times on Friday...their Jerk Chicken combo is FINE!

The Preservation Hall Brass Band relax in the shade before their opening set at Satchmo 2016

The Preservation Hall Brass Band relax in the shade before their opening set at Satchmo 2016

The Preservation Hall Brass Band relax in the shade before their opening set at Satchmo 2016

The Preservation Hall Brass Band relax in the shade before their opening set at Satchmo 2016

Greg Davis and Kirk Joseph kid around pre-set at Satchmo Fest 2016

Greg Davis and Kirk Joseph kid around pre-set at Satchmo Fest 2016

Dirty Dozen Brass Band at the Red Beans and Riceley Yours Stage at Satchmofest 2016

Dirty Dozen Brass Band at the Red Beans and Riceley Yours Stage at Satchmofest 2016

The Tornado Brass Band cool off with a few cold Abita Jockamo IPA's before their set

The Tornado Brass Band cool off with a few cold Abita Jockamo IPA's before their set

Bill Summers Jazzsalsa perfom at the Red Beans and Riceley Yours Stage at Satchmofest 2016

Bill Summers Jazzsalsa perfom at the Red Beans and Riceley Yours Stage at Satchmofest 2016

The Soul Rebels Brass Band were nice enough to pose for a portrait!

The Soul Rebels Brass Band were nice enough to pose for a portrait!

The sun sets behind the clouds and St. Louis Cathedral...Abita Beer tent smiles.

The sun sets behind the clouds and St. Louis Cathedral...Abita Beer tent smiles.

Big Sam's Funky Nation closed out the opening night at Satchmo Summerfest 2016

Big Sam's Funky Nation closed out the opening night at Satchmo Summerfest 2016

How To Tuesday #35 - Portrait Photography Lighting 101: When to choose...what to use? by Zack Smith

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How do we know when to use lighting for a portrait, and then what light do we use?

I think when we are learning how to first shoot portraits, lighting is probably the last thing on our minds. I remember when I first started shooting portraits, the most important thing buzzing around my head was "I hope I look like I know what I doing" especially if that person was paying me to be there! I was still fidgeting with my camera, lenses, and all the while I was hoping that the client didn't get distracted or bored. The absolute last thing on my mind was what kind of lighting is suitable for this portrait and how can I utilize the FREE light first.

Let the Subject Set the Settings...

When we are first setting up for a portrait shoot the easiest way I have found to help with choosing the right exposure (aperture, ISO, shutter speed), lens (focal length), composition and lighting, is to ask - What Does My Subject Want. What's the story I am trying relay here? How does my subject want to be presented? I am going to use an example from my recent photo shoot with the super creative folks at Dirty Coast Press in New Orleans, to answer that question.

Question 1 - What is the Goal of this Portrait?

Ask yourself, what are you trying to accomplish. In the case of this shoot, I needed to showcase the t-shirts and their design, show how well they fit on the person, and make sure the design was visible and lit well. If that's my first goal, I also had ulterior motives like: I need great joy and energy from each subject who was wearing the shirt, I needed the background to NOT be distracting, I needed my subject facing the lens at all times but still look "natural". 

Search for the Available Light first when looking to set the "base" of light for your portrait

Sometimes the natural light is all you need to properly light someone. When looking for an easy and quick shot at One Eyed Jacks for the Booker shirt, i just used the available window light to illuminate my subject and the background. NOTE: we must always take into consideration how our backgrounds are lit as well - they will continue to tell the story of the portrait in a way that completes the photograph.

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In the shot above, I had to slow down my shutter speed and use a very wide aperture (1.8) to get as much light as possible. But in the shot below, I am outside in the shade and there is plenty of natural light available to photograph my subjects. NOTE: this wall that's covered in vegetation is one of my favorite backgrounds in New Orleans. The streets of New Orleans constantly offer up their natural settings for your best portraits...

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Natural light portraits make your life so much easier...you can just flow with your subjects' moods and connect with them so much easier. As the day comes to a close, we can still utilize the ambient light from a window, but we may need to add light to our backgrounds if they are not close enough to expose properly. In the portrait below, we had enough light on Rodney but not enough on the background. In other situations maybe that would ok - but remember that we have a duty to our client to show their products and make them shine. Even though that shirt wall is out of focus and in the background, I wanted to direct your eye there to let you know that visiting their store would reveal even more creative designs. 

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As you may be able to tell, I added a warm orange gel to my Alien Bee 800 with a 30º grid attached and had the left side of his face take the window light. That grid on my background light allowed me to "focus" my light to a particular section of the wall, as well as "pop" a little light on the right side of Rodney's head. You can say I got a 2-fer on that background light - background AND rim light!

Learn these mixed light portrait techniques and more at my workshop August 20th!

I will be talking about and demonstrating these exact techniques at my "Art of the Photographic Portrait Workshop" August 20th at the New Orleans Academy of Fine Art. Be one of the lucky ones who SIGNS UP NOW before it's too late! This class is limited to 8 participants so we can keep the class small and learn BIG

READ MORE AND SIGN UP HERE!!

Art of the Photographic Portrait - The Portrait IS the story your subject reads with their eyes by Zack Smith

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Photographing a portrait of someone must tell the story, learning the story must come before you put camera to eye...

Over the years I have loved photographing my friend Arlyn Jiminez, who is also a superbly talented metal artist. He makes sculptures for his own art but for commissions as well. Here and there some galleries even show his work... Ariodante Gallery in New Orleans will be showing some work of his in the near future..stay tuned.

I wanted to go by Arlyn's studio sculpture studio in New Orleans to demonstrate some mixed lighting portraits using some new gear I got. I will be doing alot of this type of instruction in my "Art of the Photographic Portrait" photography workshop on August 20th at the New Orleans Academy of Fine Art, but I wanted to show those interested what is possible....really, anything is!

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Explaining the 3 Light Portrait Setup

I was using a 3 strobe setup, also know as a 3 Light Setup, using natural light, and 3 Paul C. Buff Strobes with grids and colored gels. In the shot above I had no gel on a 30º grid on his face, a blue gel w/ a 40º grid on the tools in the foreground, and a orange gel on a 10º grid for the warm look on the background. I had a video done of this setup you can see here:

Shooting with the Prime Lens New Orleans French Quarter Gallery - July 2016 by Zack Smith

In preparation for my latest NOLA @ Night French Quarter and City Park photography workshop, I walked the French Quarter with my 35mm 1.4 prime and had a blast. I noticed that shadows play a big part in the quarter whether or not the sun is out, or the night is in full effect. There is also something very liberating when confined to see in only one focal length...here's what I saw

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How to Tuesday #34 - Learning Portrait photography sometimes starts with learning where and how to focus. by Zack Smith

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As beginning photographers there's alot on our minds. Aside from going through our mental checklist of various Must Do's like:

How to Turn Camera On / How to Hold Camera Correct / Set Correct ISO / Where is  my Shutter Speed Wheel? / and the list goes on...

Sometimes it's the easiest factors of photography that escape us like - Where Do I Set My Focus? I think I can help in this department, so let's go through a few scenarios and break them down...

Where Do I set my Focus Point and which Focus Point do I use when photographing Portraits?

Most of the time, I mean 99.9% of the time, in portrait photography you will want to focus on the eyes of your subject. If they eyes are the stairway to the soul (as some may say) then you want your viewers to be looking directly into the eyes of your subject. If you have the ability to have your subject's eyes facing you then it will be easy to find the focus and lock in tight. 

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EYES.jpg
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As  you see in my portrait of the lovely Jodi, my focus point is at her eyes. I deliberately set my Auto Focus Point at her eyes and set my Auto Focus there, then recomposed and snapped this shot. I was using my Paul C. Buff 60" octabank on her left side..and see that nice warm glowing hair light on her right side? Well that was the soft setting sun popping that warm glow for us! Two light set up...one artificial, and one natural. As you can see, photographing portraits at the Golden Hour in Louisiana is one of my favorite things to do!

How do I set my auto focus point for the eyes in my portrait photography?

In all cameras, we have the ability to get OFF of our Default Modes (these are modes of focus, ISO, and other features that come standard w/ the camera when we first turn it on) and customize our photographic experience. Keep in mind, when we first turn our cameras on, our Auto Focus default mode will be set on a "focus to nearest" feature, meaning the camera wants to focus on the "closest object". If our subjects are always the first thing we see in our compositions, this default feature would work perfect...but that's not always the case! In the terms of this How To Tuesday, we want to depart from the default setting, and go to the Single Point AF feature. In the Single Point AF we can move/toggle the focus point to the place we want our camera to focus...and in this case it's the EYES!

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In the above photo of Luke, you can see my how my multi point focus pattern lays over my full composition. Note the middle box is highlighted as that is my favorite focus point...but in this case I want to be able to utilize my focus points to find Luke's eye, then recompose the least amount of distance from Focus Point to Final Composition. This way I know I will be in focus no matter what aperture.

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I set my focus point to the box closest to his eye, then recompose, and shoot.

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zack-smith-photography-luke-winslow-king-portrait-st-bernard-chalmette-mixed-light-portrait-auto-focus-blog

Learning to properly auto focus during portraits will take some time, but you will learn!

This kind of technique doesn't come naturally for all photographers. Some of us hold our strengths in the creative aesthetic moments and we cringe when "another damn button" needs to be pressed or clicked to make our job easier. If you are a portrait photographer that doesn't want your subject's eyes to be in the middle of the frame every time, this is one feature you will need to learn! Practice! Practice! Practice! Practice your portrait photography on a tree, a house, a pet! Do whatever it takes to get comfortable so that you can utilize this feature as second nature!

If you think you'd like to learn how to use these tactics and much much more in a real life portrait setting, then you should check out my NEXT WORKSHOP - "Art of the Photographic Portrait" on August 20th in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Using my roots to connect in deeper conversations in the No Man's Land of Vermillion Parish by Zack Smith

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My roots and cultural threads are often needed to make connections when photographing the landscapes of Louisiana and emotional terrain clients and subjects.

On a recent photo shoot in the wilds of the Paul J. Rainey Wildlife Sanctuary, deep in the Louisiana coastal marshes of Vermillion Parish, I needed more than extra batteries and secure digital memory cards to creatively photograph our team's experience there. Yesterday I joined an amazing team from the Audubon Louisiana institute, Rainey Sanctuary, and Cultural Vistas Magazine to document new tactics taken on by Audubon Louisiana to revitalize portions of the battered Louisiana coast due to pipeline cutting, saltwater intrusion, and storms. I found it very necessary to use my knowledge of Vermillion Bay, Lafayette, and the smaller surrounding towns' culture and music to make connections with our guides and host...vital when wanting to photograph the story behind the story.

Located on a peninsula along the Gulf of Mexico, the sanctuary is a prime example of the land loss crisis threatening communities, industries and wildlife across coastal Louisiana. This land loss has been worsened by storms like Rita and Ike, which decimated much of the property and turned hundreds of acres of the sanctuary into open water. I was so honored to be able to work on this job as part of an article, video, and documentary produced by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities' Cultural Vistas magazine. 

This wildlife sanctuary just south of Vermillion Bay is closed off to the public. Being one of the few photographers to be granted access to this cultural gem was not lost on me as I toured it's vast channels and waterways.

The National Audubon Society’s oldest and largest bird sanctuary is held here, spanning 26,000 acres in Vermilion Parish, and I was there to photograph the discussion of it's history and importance to bird populations, and overview of the various restoration efforts underway that has made Rainey a living laboratory of coastal restoration to inform private landowners across the Louisiana coast. I was inundated with a vast coastal knowledge from conservationists, ornithologists, and preservationists like never before. 

Audubon has been a Louisiana landowner since 1924, and seeks to endow Louisiana landowners with a better understanding of available self-powered, affordable marsh creation techniques to restore land on their own properties. The Sanctuary provides critical migratory and  nesting habitat for over 200 species of birds, including some threatened species. Even though the day we went in July was probably the slowest time for any type of bird action, Erik Johnson, Director of Bird Conservation for Audubon Louisiana, counted over 35 unique bird species in our 6 hours on site. 

As a lifelong resident of Louisiana and lover of her people and cultures, I feel it is my duty to make sure I do what I can with my talents and creative energy to make sure our land is protected for the future generations. Stay tuned for the article and corresponding video in the coming months!

 

 

 

Photo Gallery: Walking with the Prime by Zack Smith

Learning photography is learning to see differently, and then becoming comfortable with your new eyes.

One challenge I like to give people who are just learning photography is to "hang out with a prime". Whether they have a fixed 50mm or 85mm lens doesn't matter to me, they can easily just stay at any focal length on a zoom lens they have, and experiment. Being able to identify and become familiar with how your world looks at each focal length is a priceless lesson for any photographer, especially the beginner. I often bring out my small 85mm 1.8 and keep it in the truck...you never know what you might see...

Behind the Scenes for St. Charles Vision Portrait Shoot #2 - NOLA "Distinctive" by Zack Smith

Heading into Overdrive and BTS (Behind the Scenes) at the St. Charles Vision "Distinctive" New Orleans portrait photo shoot

In this second installment of St. Charles Vision's "Distinctive" New Orleans portrait campaign, we photographed chefs Kristen Essig co-owner of Coquette, Aaron Burgau of Patois and Central City BBQ, Thomas Mann, artist, and trombone player extraordinaire and all around nice fellow, Delfayo Marsalis. New Orleans is ripe with creatives, and I am honored to be around their energy and have the privilege to photograph them. Thanks again to Matt at St. Charles Vision for including me in this very cool collaborative photographic project. Here are some of my favorite Behind the Scenes shots from our shoot last week held at Room #1 at NOLA Spaces in New Orleans. Hair and makeup by Susan Spaid, assisted by Lamar Arceneaux and Sarrah Danziger, Cameron Wood digital tech.

 

 

Beauty and the Beast by The Performing Arts Academy. This Parish Got Talent. by Zack Smith

Performance photography gallery showcases performers from the St. Bernard area.

Being connected, staying engaged and entertained are the three things I look for in a performance. Over my 20 years of photographing performances of all types of music, theater, and dance I have seen my fair share of talented ensembles. The most recent performance of "Beauty and the Beast" by The Performing Arts Academy ranks up there in my books as being one of the most stellar casts, clever lighting and stage productions, and live orchestra combos I have ever seen. In each performance I saw, all actors hit their marks, all spot lights tracked and followed with guided precision all the while keeping the story engaging and the audience enthralled. The cleverly hand constructed sets and backdrops were life like and the depth and textures of each scene made you feel as though the stage continued through each forest scene and enchanted castle set.

Oh, did I mention that the cast, crew, technical, and grips were all kids from St. Bernard Parish? Sorry, that must have slipped my mind, mostly because I now rank this group up with the professionals I have seen over the years and therefore have transcended age and are just plain talented artists. The singing ability of some of these kids ranging in ages of 6 to 19 I'd put up with any group leading a band on Frenchmen St. or even at an LPO concert at The Orpheum. I am very, very serious about this...I was blown away at the talent and professionalism of this group of kids and the talented mentors around them. I hope you enjoy these images as much as I enjoyed this performance by The Performing Arts Academy led by artistic director Arianna Cassar.

My sincere thanks to Jimmy Delery for the introduction to Mr. Charles Cassar and this wonderful world of talent and possibilities in St. Bernard...catch a show soon!

Please enjoy this photo gallery by clicking on the arrows besides the photo!

 

 

POP...SPARKLE....and FADE - 4th of July Fireworks Photography Recap by Zack Smith

Zack Smith Photography Workshops fireworks Photo Gallery Showcase

Last night's 4th of July fireworks display was epic. Big kudos to Go 4th On The River's Dueling Barge show and all the sponsors who made it happen. Zack Smith Photography Workshops got a HUGE boost from the folks at The French Market Corporation and Crescent Park for securing us an excellent viewing area! Be on the lookout for more images coming from our 10 lucky workshop photographers but I hope these will tide you over!

I have included the Exposures for these photos so you know how shutter speed affects the trails of each firework...the longer the shutter speed, the longer the tail.

320 / 30 seconds / f20 / 40mm / 5DMKIII
ISO 320 / f13 / 20 seconds / 21mm / 5DMKIII
ISO 320 / f13 / 8 seconds / 85mm / 5DMKIII
ISO 320 / f13 / 8 seconds / 85mm / 5DMKIII
ISO 320 / f22 / 30 seconds / 40mm / Canon 5DMKIII

4th of July Firework Photography Quick Tips Video! by Zack Smith

Take a look at my most recent segment on WWL-TV's "Tips from the Pro" where I discuss the 3 most basic principals of successful firework photography...Location, Stabilization, and Remote Operation. Click the link below to learn for yourself before the fireworks tonight at City Park and on July 4th at the Dueling Barges Show on the Mississippi River!

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