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When Life Gives You Lemons- A Photoshoot

Hey guys! As I said last week, this weeks post will give you a peak at a shoot I did recently, how it was executed and my thoughts behind its creation.

I've been thinking about brands that I want to target a lot lately and I can't help but feel that my style could provide a lot of visual value for denim companies like Levi's etc.

My latest shoot involved a man I met by happenstance-Dustin Fruson. I was gathering looks at RRL in Williamsburg when he walked in the door with his massive, glorious beard.

As photographers and creatives, we must capitalize on opportunities when they arise. It's easy to take note of an idea or something that could work. The hard part is putting it together, making the ask, taking the actions. But the action is what counts.

After a brief conversation, Dustin told me he would be back in town next week and would be happy to shoot. When he got back, I had a couple ideas built out. What I didn't plan on was the rain. A lot of it. By the time we met up, we were both drenched. At this point, we decided to call the shoot and wait for a perfect sunny day. We talked a bit over coffee before parting ways.

Just kidding. We went out and shot in that shit.

If you've ever shot with me, or seen my photos, I'm not a fair-weather player.

I believe in earning my supper. I believe that the more I give of myself to my work, the more it will give back. Both of us cold and shivering, our clothes-and my camera- properly soaked, we made something that had character. Something with presence. It wasn't in a studio. It wasn't composited. What you see is what we got.

We started at the docks before heading to Bushwick and photographing Dustin on an exploded semi truck. I know, that escalated quickly.

My thoughts for the above selection were simple; I wanted Gotham in the background, covered in rain and fog and to place my subject in a trying environment and see how he reacted.

The photos with the truck were a bit more thought out. I had scouted the area the day before and played with angles that seemed to work more than others. I knew through my Sun Seeker app on my phone that the sun would be just behind me to camera right, despite the fact the sun was no where in sight the day of shooting. The clouds acted as a giant soft box and cast a nice quality of light upon Dustin's face. After getting the shots I had envisioned, we started to play around. As Dustin climbed to look into the cab of the truck, I realized that the mirror bar provided a nice frame and the charred truck could be used as visual interest in the foreground. This photo was shot at 24mm while the one of Dustin smiling and leaning against the truck was shot at 35mm.

After a while, we had to take shelter. We ducked into an old abandoned warehouse in Greenpoint. I immediately realized life had rewarded us. It was a goldmine of light. The place looked creepy with "Ammonia Gas Mask" signs on the wall, peeled paint, and big steel doors. Sort of reminded me of a scene out of SAW. We again started shooting.

The first thing I saw when we walked in was this nice thin skylight and a green tiled wall with cracked glass windows in the background. There was no acting or mental gymnastics needed to gain a usable expression as the place demanded a certain response and pulled you into the mood of the space. Dustin stood directly under the light. His beard and cheekbones really were highlighted here as the directional light showed even the smallest crevices in his skin. The emptiness, grit and isolation you feel in the photo was as close to being there as I could get.

We wandered into the massive 35,000 square foot structure- a labyrinth of rooms, each with their own personality but all dark and eerie. We found a chair in one particular room. I positioned it in a 'far-side key' lighting style so that the fogged glass cast a nice glow on Dustin while a nearby white tile column filled in some of the shadows on the opposite side of his face. Again, little direction was needed in achieving Dustin's expression as it replaces the vibe of the space.

As we finished and started walking back to the subway, we noticed a sweet old car that we could work with. When life keeps giving you lemons, you just keep making that lemonade.

The car was beautiful and the red truck in the background was a nice complementary color play that I was happy to use.

That was it! I hope some of this background information was valuable to you guys. Please let me know what you though either by sending me an e-mail or DM on my Instagram.

Also, here are some of the quick things I'd like to see you take away from this read:

1. Start thinking about who your photos would be valuable to. If you aren't sure that means you just need to keep shooting until you find your visual voice. Be patient but work hard.

2. Never be afraid to capitalize on a moment. You are always one shoot away from having someone notice you and picking you out for an amazing job. Don't let that slip away because you were afraid to make the ask.

3. Always be building shoot ideas. Carry a notebook and scout cool locations so that if something comes up, you have options to pick from. If I hadn't been scouting the day before, I would have never known about the burnt semi truck.

4. Staged isn't always better. Embrace the environment. Let nature be your set designer. Create something truly unique and irreplicable by being spontaneous.

5. When life gives you lemons, make that LEMONADE.

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