Tag Archives: Ann Arbor photographer

*You* Should Appreciate This

Close your eyes. Now open them. How many pictures do you see around you?

Like many other things, photographic technology has become so consumer friendly we’re constantly flooded with imagery. It’s in the camera manufacturer’s best interest to put their product in as many hands as possible. Everyone wins… except appreciation.

Not that long ago achieving an image took at the very least three hours, but usually much longer (I’m speaking from experience, so within the last thirty years).

8:00AM, pick up film. This should be the easiest task, but you have to consider available light which determines film speed, the type of light which determines the film’s white balance and the brand as different brands yield different textures.

Film also had an expiration, which was an incentive to shoot.

Try to use your film before 1937.

Try to use your film before 1937.

8:37AM, run to the studio and grab the light meter and some Polaroid. This is where it gets dicey as you have to know your camera and math because you’re preparing to shoot 12, 24 or 36 frames without instant gratification (and if you’re shooting large format, wear your lucky socks). When I assisted I’d hear “I want the back at 16 and 8 up front, diffused, with 11 only on the models face” and have ten minutes to accommodate while the clients and talent looked on. Below are some Polaroids from my time assisting Jeff Sciortino (note the light meter with me in every shot).

On the left I was standing in for Stacy Keach, who's on the right (ask your parents).

On the left I was standing in for Stacy Keach, who’s on the right (ask your parents).

Polaroids were our window into the future and we’d often record the exposure settings on the winners.

9:14AM, begin shooting the Polaroids. Once you’re satisfied with the lighting you’ve got the green light to go to film, however, if it’s a commercial shoot you need the client to sign off on the Polaroid too, so add an hour.

9:37AM, begin shooting film. With every shutter release you might wonder if the lights all fired or if the film advanced okay. When you only have 12, 24 or even 36 exposures, each frame is valuable real estate.

10:07AM, one of the rented lights in the back continues to misfire. The rental house should be able to help, but it pauses the shoot for 15 to 20 minutes. This happened to me maybe one out of every ten shoots. I’d have to call Helix rental on Jackson Street in downtown Chicago and talk with those guys, which I imagine is like calling NASA if NASA consisted of sarcastic, incompetent morons.

11:27AM, the film’s all exposed. Time to head to the lab and if it’s a commercial client DO NOT forget the purchase order.

11:45AM, the film is at the lab. The film takes three hours to develop unless you rush order it, but that comes at a premium. However, you may want the film pushed to add some brightness so you order a snip test. The process time doubled.

If you choose to develop your own, prepare to enjoy an extended period of peace and quiet. So long as you know what you’re doing this can be a very therapeutic exercise. All you have to do is follow the simple instructions shown below.

The people at the labs were great people and good at what they did. I either used Precision Imaging on Grand Boulevard or Gamma Imaging downtown on Superior (both have since changed names or moved). If my order was entirely black and white I went to Print Lab on Homan in Humboldt Park. Some of those folks were genuine chemists. In fact, the TV show Braking Bad was originally going to be about dark room labs, but critics thought that too controversial so they chose crystal meth instead.

3:00PM, receive the film from the snip test. As you suspected it could be pushed 1/3 so you call it in. Keep in mind, starting a film process now will finish up around 6PM or later. Some labs close at 5 or 5:30PM. Your choices are asking the lab to accommodate or to begin the process first thing the next morning. The latter would be no problem unless it was Friday. “They change the soup out over the weekend, so the snip test would be unreliable. Ask them to stay late.” Which meant I had to stay late and wait for the lab to finish so we could send the film to the client on Saturday. Not cool.

This film was pushed 1/3 on April 1.

This film was pushed 1/3 on April 1.

6:01PM, the lab drops off the film. Now you can review the contact sheets and make selects and, of course, have a drink. After that you’re home bound.

8:31AM, at the lab because they couldn’t possibly open at 8AM. You hand back the film and a list of selects for printing.

9:45AM, the first run of prints arrive. Not satisfied with two of them. Call the lab and reprint them brighter, with more cyan.

10:52AM, the two new images are in your hands. Satisfaction rushes over you.

So, exactly two hours and 52 minutes later you have images. One day, and two hours and 52 minutes later.

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Alone in 1000 Square Feet, Update

Alone in 1000 Square Feet is an ongoing project, adding one or more new photos every week.

For those new to this series, there are only two guidelines: only I can be in the photo and they must all be captured in my apartment, common area or basement. Using these restrictions I’ve created six characters:

The Turbulent Mob Associate

The Clever Spy

The Distressed Burglar

The Afflicted War Veteran

The Flamboyant Detective

The Brilliant Psychopath

So far there’s been overlap through conflict, time and chance… but everybody’s still alive…

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L’Meese then and now

I’ve already had a stellar photo career with many great experiences. Along the way I’ve worked with some wonderful people. On occasion I’m lucky enough to work with the same subject at yearly intervals. Such is the case with L’Meese.

I first worked with her in 2008 when I exhibited in a two-person show with renowned fashion photographer Stan Malinowski in Chicago. From Fantasy to Fashion drew an incredible crowd of collectors and I was proud to show my interpretation of fashion photography with Stan’s photographs for such publications as Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue and Playboy. From Janice Dickinson to Iman in Valentino’s atelier, it was a smashing success. More of Stan’s work can be seen here.

Catalog page from the exhibit. Images by Stan Malinowski.

Catalog page from the exhibit. Images by Nick Azzaro.

From left, Stan Malinowski taking a picture while I look on with Victor Skrebneski and his colleague. Photo by Art Azzaro.

I showed new work, inspired by Stan’s big budget shoots of yesteryear. L’Meese’s portrait below was included in the exhibit.

I recently had the chance to work with L’Meese again, this time in Ann Arbor. The only thing that’s changed is her elevated level of experience.

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Nia Sees the Light.

Nia is a model that’s well ahead of the game and a fabulous person to work with. That’s what allowed us to be more creative during our shoot. Not only did she own the in studio strobe sets with her many looks, but she handled daylight and lengthy fluorescent bulb exposures with the same style and grace.

Below are two looks from two different strobe sets:

In the sun, she shines:

Even a one second exposure. No problem:

Thank you, Nia.

 

 

 

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Alone in 1000 Square Feet, Set 1

It was 6:56pm on the evening of August 15 when the flamboyant detective understood this was no ordinary murder scene.

At the same time across town the afflicted war veteran was having realizations of his own…

While his friend, the turbulent mob associate, was in the middle of a very important business deal.

The details from that transaction made no difference to the occupant of the residence one house to the south. The distressed burglar was hard at work, reaping what he could as his window was closing fast…

But not as fast as the clever spy’s.

“What’s the hurry”, said the brilliant psychopath to himself in the mirror of an apartment he had entered only once before.

The following day was spent analyzing images and materials taken from the gruesome display by the flamboyant detective.

And breakfast was ruined for two nameless thugs by an unannounced visit from the turbulent mob associate.

But the thugs had it easy compared to the clever spy, who withstood a night of interrogation and still maintained his cover.

Another day, another “…fuck it”, said the afflicted war veteran.

“50/50.” No matter how prepared, the distressed burglar knows there’s a fifty-fifty chance things could go wrong during any break in.

“Are you certain get the fuck out of here are the last words you’d ever like to say?” asked the brilliant psychopath.

A broken vase. A sideways chair. That was the extent of the mess made when the clever spy broke free and overtook his captors.

The minutes felt like hours as the flamboyant detective tried to comprehend what had taken place in the crimson apartment. “Could a human have done this?”

Some have no conscience.

Others remember all too well.

Some like to talk.

Others prefer the quiet.

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Studio Lighting Tips

There are two studio lighting setups that tend to appear in ads today. By no means are they new, but they’ll never go out of style. Both place the model on a white background, but the first only uses one light, causing a shadow and making the background go gray, while the other uses three lights creating an “infinity” look. Below are diagrams and samples of how to achieve each.

Simple, one light setup.

The result.

Three light setup, removing the environment.

The result.

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Where’s the Beef

We love food, and this post marks the beginning of how we’ll show it. Once every two weeks (or more) we’ll highlight a favorite food, giving us a chance to share some great recipes as well as showcase some amazing eateries.

Below are two different favorites: barbecued beef ribs and potato skins.

Beef ribs can be found in most grocery stores with the refrigerated meats. I begin with a dry rub that includes brown sugar, dill, garlic and more. Then I stand the ribs up in a slow cooker with about an inch of water at the bottom. Then I wait six or more hours… When they’re ready I have two options: pull the meat off the bone or BBQ them and throw them in the oven for twenty minutes at 400˚. Enjoy!

Potato skins are simple! Begin with a bag of potatoes, clean them and halve them. Bake them for two to three hours at 300˚. When they’re soft and cool, scoop out the center to make “boats”. Next, clean and dice your favorite vegetables. We chose bell pepper, onion, tomato, broccoli and… bacon! Start filling the potato skins with your selections, cover them all with cheese and bake them for twenty to thirty minutes at 350˚. Buon appetito!

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Shots in the Dark

The other night while hunting werewolves I managed to snap a few street scenes. Although the pursuit proved uneventful, I was satisfied with the images. I strongly recommend everyone else get out there to shoot and capitalize on the warm nights before the cold gets here. Please let me know where I can see your work.

–N

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