Coming off a two-week stretch of back-to-back corporate portraits reminded me of the fun — and frustrations — of executive portraits.
On one hand, shooting corporate environmental portraits really gets my creative juices going. I start each assignment questioning the most-important story my client wants to tell. This is the fun part… especially when I can push the envelope or think outside the box.
Frustrations? These can be a lengthy list, topped off with uber-busy business executives who arrive saying “you have five minutes to photograph me… and they began three minutes ago” to skittish security guards who nix location requests because the images might “be used to help advance security threats.” Really?
My recent photo subjects were great to work with, especially those times we had to work in public spaces (it’s never easy to have your portrait made while people are looking at you).
But schedules were tight and we had to work quickly. All told, I easily spent more time hauling in gear from the downtown Charlotte parking garages and setting up lights than actually photographing my subjects. Nonetheless, the frustrations add to the challenge of making photos that support creative corporate communications. And that’s why I love being a corporate photojournalist.
Check out this sampling of my most-recent executive portraits.
Associate conductor Jacomo Rafael Bairos led the Charlotte Symphony in a free outdoor concert in June at the Duke Energy McGuire Nuclear Station EnergyExplorium on Lake Norman. Many Charlotteans are familiar with the Charlotte Symphony’s Summer Pops series, which takes place at SouthPark mall’s Symphony Park venue. The symphony orchestra’s outdoor concerts in Matthews, Huntersville, Pineville, Kannapolis and Cornelius are equally good.
A rain storm passed through the area about an hour before the outdoor concert began. Fortunately, the rain (and thunder and lightening) was long gone by the time the musicians took the stage.
The McGuire nuclear energy station is packed with visitor-friendly amenities, including walking trails, a nature trail, picnic areas and Duke Energy’s EnergyExplorium, a hands-on science center about electricity generation. During the June concert, boats rocked gently nearby as their passengers listened to the music.
Associate conductor Jacomo Rafael Bairos is known for his passionate dedication to music education and community engagement.
A member of the Charlotte Symphony warms up before the outdoor concert at McGuire energy station on Lake Norman.
Another view of the hundreds (thousands?) of music seekers who turned out for the June 2012 performance at Duke Energy’s McGuire nuclear energy station.
A bit of Charlotte Symphony context (taken from the symphony’s website): Founded in 1932, the Charlotte Symphony is the largest and most active professional performing arts organization in the central Carolinas, giving nearly 100 performances each season and reaching an annual attendance of 200,000 listeners. Now in its 80th season, the orchestra employs 62 musicians on full-time contracts and is led by the acclaimed conductor Christopher Warren-Green, who began his tenure with the CSO in the fall of 2010. Mr. Warren-Green’s nearly four decades of artistic accomplishments most recently included serving as music conductor for April’s royal wedding of Prince William and Miss Catherine Middleton, an event viewed by more than two billion people worldwide.
Few cautions, great weather and no big-bang crashes speed up NASCAR’s longest race
In the 15 years I’ve been photographing Charlotte, I’ve captured on-track action during dozens of NASCAR races at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, located northeast of Charlotte in Concord, NC. Often I’m hired to photograph the behind-the-scenes actions of a specific team or the sports marketing efforts of a corporate client. This time, I set out to help the Charlotte Chamber document race day at the Coca-Cola 600, the longest race sanctioned by NASCAR. Here are some of the favorite images I came up with.
The 2012 Coca-Cola 600 race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway got a new logo. The logo used during the 2011 race can be seen in the image below:
Held on Memorial Day weekend each year, the Coca-Cola 600 race always includes tributes to the United States military.
Members of the United States Marine Band wait to perform during opening ceremonies. The Marine Corp Band is one of the oldest US military bands, as well as one of the oldest professional musical organizations in the country.
NASCAR race cars sit lined on the track for the start of the 2012 Coca-Cola 600 race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway.
GoDaddy.com team driver Danica Patrick during opening ceremonies.
Colorful Coca-Cola 600 flags line the entrance to the Charlotte Motor Speedway for the May 27, 2012 race.
Race fans capture a good view from atop a customized bus.
Country music star Tim McGraw attended the race.
Lowe’s Team 48 driver Jimmie Johnson and wife Chandra during opening ceremonies.
NASCAR fans rally on the racers from packed stands.
GoDaddy.com pit crew members work to get driver Danica Patrick back on the track during a pit stop.
Thousands of NASCAR fans at the 2012 Coca-Cola 600 race show how popular stock car racing continues to be in Charlotte.
A fan goes all out in his enthusiasm for NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt.
A street performer entertains the crowds outside the speedway.
On your mark… Get set… ROW!
Thousands of spectators poured out May 5 for the annual Charlotte Asian Festival and Dragon Boat Races, held on Lake Norman at Ramsey Creek Park. Organized by the Carolinas Asian-American Chamber of Commerce (CAACC), Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation and the Charlotte Dragon Boat Association, the annual event celebrates Asian culture and traditions locally.
I’ve photographed the event a few times in previous years. What caught my attention this year were the number of corporations participating as a team-building exercise for employees. I believe two boats were powered by cancer survivors. Elsewhere in the park, Asian performers danced, sang and entertained the crowds.
Dragon Boat racing is an important part of Chinese tradition. Originating more than 2,300 years ago in southern China, races now take place in communities around the globe. The Lake Norman races began in 2006.
Athletes paddle in sync to a rhythm pounded by an onboard drummer. The competing teams try to power their 40-foot-long canoe-shaped vessels across the finish line first.
Both the race and on-stage festivities make the community event a must-see activity. The event is also fun to photograph. The colorful costumes and brightly painted boats make nice photos.
A young performer fiddles with her costume before going on stage at the Charlotte Asian Festival 2012 event.
I couldn’t resist taking this photo of a young boy playing on the shoreline of Lake Norman while a dragon boat floats by on the water.
As first glance, Charlotte’s 7th Street Public Market looks like any other farmer’s market offering locally grown food. Then one notices the bakery confections, and the coffee bar and the market’s many other offerings that make it so much more.
Still in its infancy after just opening in December 2011, the market is intended to be a business incubator where food entrepreneurs and culinary artisans can set up shop and hope their offerings take root.
It’s definitely worth a visit. Here are just a few of the images we created while checking out the market earlier this month. Even though the market, located at 224 E. 7th Street, isn’t in our daily stomping grounds, we’ll definitely stop by again as the harvest season hits full force. Enjoy the photos. The market was like visual eye candy and a photographer’s dream. Plus it’s yet another cool addition to the long list of cool things to see and do in Charlotte NC.
(Thanks to operations manager Jacqueline Venner Senske for being a model in the environmental portrait above.)
Coffee creations at the Not Just Coffee shop located in the market.
Ashlee Cuddy of Bond Street Wines was a good sport allowing me to create an environmental portrait of her also.
Peter Herr of Herr Fresh Flowers (above).
Michael LaVecchia of the Meat & Fish Co. has a clever business model with his delivery-by-bike service.
Erica Baez-Hortob is the food artist and owner of Cloud 9 Confections and Bakery.
More than 60 restaurants, chefs, mixologists and sponsors came together last week (April 11, 2012) to raise funds for and awareness of childhood hunger. Held at the Wells Fargo Atrium in uptown Charlotte, the annual event is a great chance to see — and taste — the culinary arts taking place around Charlotte.
Congratulations to the winners of the Best of Charlotte awards, sponsored by the American Culinary Federation.
Best Cold Dish:
- Amelie’s French Bakery – Peanut Butter Petit Four
– Fern Restaurant – Sweet Potato Meringue
Best Hot Dish:
- Enso Asian Bistro & Sushi Bar – Wagyu Taco
– Mimosa Grill – Benton’s County Ham Wrapped Shrimp
Best Table Display:
- Gallery at Ballantyne Hotel
– e2 emeril’s eatery
Driving home from an evening photo assignment the other day, I had the good fortune of spotting the full moon rising over the Charlotte skyline. Taking a photo of just the moon by itself is never fun, so I zig-zagged through the city streets looking for a building to line it up with. The Duke Energy Tower made the perfect partner.
In 2009, I was able to photograph the full moon rising over Bank of America tower. This series shows the path of the moon around the tower that night. While I had happened upon the moon rising over the Duke Energy Tower the other day, I’d purposefully set out to photograph the moon against Bank of America tower after hearing meteorologists talking about how large the moon would seem that night.
It was very dramatic. We turned the photo into a postcard and it’s been one of our best sellers.
Photographing the moon against a skyline is challenging. Still, if you think through the likely path the moon will follow (I’ll often scout the path a few nights before the shoot), position yourself correctly, and then stay patient, you might be rewarded with a few good images. I can’t count the number of times I scouted the perfect location to capture the setting sun or a full moon rising against the Charlotte skyline (or a lighthouse, or interesting building), only to have a cloud float into place and kill the shot. Technology and PhotoShop could solve this dilemma, but I want my images to be real (with adjustments only for color saturation).
So if you happen to check out the links to my Charlotte skyline photos (below) and wonder about the vibrant colors of the sky in many of the images, yes, the sky really was brilliant pink or cobalt blue or Easter-egg purple on the days I took the photos. Often, during the 45 minutes or so as the sun sets (or rises) the color of the sky will transform itself many times, like in these photos, taken on December 15, 2010:
The next image wasn’t from the photo shoot that night, but it shows what I’m talking about when the sky turns purple over Charlotte.
A few years ago, I set a goal of photographing the Charlotte skyline from every possible angle. I identified at least a dozen locations to shoot from, and have been knocking them off my list. Don’t the following images show how Charlotte has become one of the most-dynamic Southern cities?
A larger collection of skyline photos are housed in this gallery:
If you know of angles on the Charlotte skyline that I haven’t already taken photos from, please let me know. If I can make some nice photos from an angle you suggest, I’ll thank you with some prints of the photos I create.
And yes, if anyone is wondering, we do sell framed art of our images. We do the custom framing ourselves. Just call or email for information.
Finally, I’ll end this blog entry with some of my favorite Charlotte skyline images. I like how the sun turned the buildings gold for just a few minutes, completely transforming the look of downtown Charlotte. I took these photos in December 2011.
Church goers of all ages are making Charlotte’s Elevation Church one of the fastest-growing churches in the United States. We stopped by recently to see what all the excitement was about. Excitement indeed.
Hearing the buzz about Elevation, I made arrangements to visit and photograph the Blakeney location. As the photos below show, it was a lot like attending a religious rock concert with a conservative theological message. This wasn’t like any church I’ve visited or photographed previously. These images are from a recent Friday night service.
According to the church’s website, Elevation Church began in 2006 in the atrium of Providence High School. About 121 people were in attendance that day. Today, the church has six locations around Charlotte; 10,000 people attend regularly.
Steven Furtick (above) is the energetic paster of Elevation Church.
It’s hard for a photographer not to be intimidated when sent to photograph a visual media giant. So I’ll admit I was a bit apprehensive when Our State magazine asked me to create some photographic portraits of Central Piedmont Community College professor George Cochran, founder of CPCC’s Film and Video program.
Read his bio for yourself from the CPCC site (http://sensoria.cpcc.edu/event/11/):
George M. Cochran has enjoyed a successful career in advertising, marketing, and visual media in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, working with agencies such as J. Walter Thompson, Young & Rubicam, Saatchi & Saatchi, and many others. He created and produced thousands of iconic images in commercial and as campaigns for Stouffer’s Food, Guerlain Perfume, Johnnie Walker Scotch, Max Factor, IBM, Mobile/Exxon, Sony and for 17 years, Miller Beer. Among his many awards are four Clio nominations, Art Director’s Awards, AIGA, for national commercials produced for Quaker Oats, Coors Beer, Betty Crocker, Jell-O, Wheaties, and National Child Help USA.
Since moving to charlotte 10 years ago, he has consulted with large and small local companies, seeking communication strategies in print, TV, radio, and digital media through his company, Cochran Enterprises. By George’s own statement, his greatest accomplishment has been giving back, as founding director of the CPCC Film and Video Program. In this capacity, he finds an outlet, not just for his unique knowledge of the industry, but also for his belief in the importance of personal vision and artistic integrity through education. He is a board member of Channel 21 and created Image Tree for his Art of Production students as a conduit for their diverse productions ranging from a documentary on the Catawba River to their current documentary production of the ecological positives of the newly constructed Duke Energy Center, here in Charlotte. He is also a member of Ronnie Bryant’s Presidents Board of the Charlotte Regional Partnership.
He is an alumnus of RIT; has lectured at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Fordham University’s Graduate School, and The Smithsonian Institute; and is contributing editor to the Focal Encyclopedia of Photography.
So do you blame me for heading into the shoot nervously? Turns out I shouldn’t have worried at all. Cochran not only was a great subject to photograph, he was a great conversationalist and really down to earth. His natural style and camera-friendly look made my job really easy.
Like the filmmaker shadow behind him in the photo at the top? I thought it would be a creative way to quickly show what Cochran does. That’s actually my assistant, Josh, posing to create the shadow for me.
Here are a few other images to show what we came up with for the magazine.
See what I mean about his great face? Eye candy for the camera.
CPCC filmmaking class in action (below)
See what I mean about being great fun?
Charlotte’s Discovery Place science museum hired us to create new marketing images of its many offerings. We spent a Saturday this month photographing the cool hands-on exhibits Discovery Place offers. The goal was to show actual visitors enjoying themselves throughout the museum. Discovery Place asked us to apply our photojournalistic approach order to create photographic images that tell visual stories about what visitors to Discovery Place can expect to experience.
A few friends showed up to help during the shoot — in case we needed families/kids to help fill out some of the scenes. Turns out the museum was so popular that Saturday (and so many visitors were agreeable to letting us take their photos and sign model releases) that we hardly needed our stand ins after all.
We photographed the museum from open until close (about 10 hours) and Discovery Place’s marketing team walked away with about 80 production-ready images.
Here are a few of the scenes:
I’m not a snake lover. In fact, they really freak me out. So I wasn’t thrilled when one of our first shoots of the day was of this monster (top photo). Isaac, the guy holding the snake, was a good sport in the photos and clearly didn’t have the snake aversion that I do. Isaac was equally great with the iguana (below).
Parents and kids both enjoyed getting to touch sea creatures in Discovery Place’s touch tank.
As a photographer, it’s always great getting to photograph behind-the-scenes actions, like this scuba diver cleaning the glass on the inside of the aquariums.
This overhead shot (below) was a bit challenging to get… especially since we took it in the afternoon when the museum was pretty crowded. We got the image by mounting a camera to a pole, and then lifting the camera about 15 feet in the air. I focused and fired the camera using my computer. We also strategically placed four flashes throughout the scene to help brighten dark areas and highlight visitors’ faces.
This museum scene is particularly difficult to photograph since, without that overhead context, there is no reason to think the photo was taken in a science museum.
Here is the same scene closer in (had to stand on a chair to get this angle). Having the various strobes still strategically placed around the area really helps the camera capture the features on everyone’s faces. The strobes also helped brighten the entire space and allow the colors throughout the scene really pop. (Thanks to Quinn and Kendall, the two teenage “models” in front who jumped in to help in this scene).
I like the pure delight on her face as she plays in Discovery Place’s water area.
We recently had the pleasure of photographing the veterinary practice of LakeCross Veterinary Hospital in Huntersville, NC (just north of Charlotte, NC). The practice just wrapped up a major expansion, which allowed the vets to increase the amount of animal care and therapy services they had room to offer.
We photographed the new space and expanded services, and also photographed the staff in action (and in portraits).
To give a sense of LakeCross Veterinary Hospital, we created this short multimedia video to highlight the range of medical services it offers. We like to create multimedia marketing pieces with still photos, rather than moving videos, because the still photos give viewers a chance to really absorb the scenes. Still images combined with music and narration invite viewers to pause and contemplate. I’d like to hear if you agree.
The foundation of this assignment was to create an archive of strong images the veterinary practice can use for marketing (brochures, advertisements, press release submissions), on its own website and in email blasts. Our goal was to give current and prospective animal owners a behind-the-scenes view of the medical clinic. We produced 93 photos from the day-long shoot.
Here are handful of images from the photo shoot:
This image shows a German Shepherd getting low-impact exercise in an aqua therapy area.
The genuine connections between the vets and pets were obvious.
The two images above show the process of a dog having his teeth cleaned while under sedation.
This dog was so relaxed during an electroacupuncture session. He hardly cared that we were taking his photo. Here are two detail photos of the therapy below.
Practice owners Donna Warren and Tom Hemstreet.
Portrait of practice owners Donna Warren and Tom Hemstreet.
Photography of the surgical suite… and an operation in session.
Detail photo of sterile surgical area.
Photo of dog in therapy session.
X-ray session in progress…
Lab work going on behind the scenes.
Thanks to the entire staff of LakeCross Veterinary Hospital for their patience and help during the photo shoot!
Photo of LakeCross Veterinary Hospital staff.