A few weeks ago I was introduced to a group of talented shooters whose work cries out to be more broadly seen and enjoyed. They belong to UPAA—a national organization supporting photographers employed by universities and colleges. Every week, these photographers have the responsibility to capture subjects as varied as athletics, healthcare, corporate communications, and illustration.
And their work is simply brilliant.
UPAA photographers strike me as the swiss army knives of photography and each seems to thrive in that role. For example, one day they may be capturing a sporting event with a 600mm lens, while on another day they may be photographing gene research in a university hospital. Later in the week they might find themselves making a lighted portrait of the president of the university before heading off to capture the architectural details of a new building. In each environment they need to be equally masterful and at ease.
Nearly 25 of them were in Indianapolis to be part of a two-day workshop where I was invited to share a few insights on corporate portraits and leveraging high-speed sync. The workshop was organized by Roberts Camera in Indy and sponsored by some of the finest names in photography including Nikon and Profoto.
One of the under appreciated benefits of attending a workshop are the relationships that develop from the shared experience of creating and discussing pictures. Unlike the more ephemeral meetings that take place on Facebook or Twitter, being with other photographers yields memories and relationships that don’t disappear beneath a scrolling timeline. So, cocktails, dinner, and easy conversations were the perfect beginning before the work began the next day.
Half of the group spent the first day with me, while the other half of the group spent the day with my dear friend Jeff Jacobsen learning about sports portraits and marketing. Jeff is the brilliant staff photographer from the University of Kansas where he is also a chameleon behind the lens. His work has been called sublime, but to me, it’s more appropriately described as immersive. Once you see his coverage of a single event, you’ll have trouble believing that it’s not the work of several photographers. He is seemingly everywhere at once—which often includes being inches from his subject.
The workshop days were split between the Indianapolis Public Library and the gym of a beautiful old church across the street from Roberts Camera. In the gym, we used the high-speed sync capabilities of the Profoto B1 and B2 to completely eliminate all of the existing window light and instead created all of the illumination from scratch. Using a shutter speed of 1/4000th of a second on a Nikon D810 effectively turned a brightly lighted room into a blank canvas ready for controlled, repeatable light from the strobes.
At the library, we used an AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G ED mounted on a Nikon D810 to show the expanse and architecture of the library. For light we used the Profoto D4 pack which allows the same precise output control in 10ths of an f/stop as the B1 and B2. That kind of control was critical when balancing to the existing light in the library. Some adjustment to the color balance in the D810 combined with a counter-balanced CTO adjustment to the main light delivered a more dramatic blue to the scene.
After the lighting session, one of the UPAA photographers came up to me and said, “I wish someone had explained this to me this way 10 years ago. It would have saved me a lot of time and effort. Thank you!”
The pleasure was ours, indeed. Kris Bosworth from Nikon, Joe Lavine and Bill Gratton from Profoto, Jody Grober, John Scott and Nick Henry from Roberts, and all the sponsors are the ones who make workshops like this possible.
Make some time to visit the UPAA website to absorb the work of the members. They are not only fine photographers, but they are some of the most humble and friendly shooters I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.